Now that the 2020 regular season has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Anthony McFarland
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: With James Conner having tested positive for Covid-19 and Jaylen Samuels ruled out—And Trey Edmunds on the Reserve/Injured List—the conditions are strong for rookie running back Anthony McFarland to potentially see his most extensive playing time whenever the Steelers next take the field, whether that’s Tuesday or Sunday against the Washington Football Team.
I could, of course, just as easily have chosen to write about Benny Snell as today’s subject, because his stock is obviously up as well right now with the news of James Conner being unavailable for at least Tuesday’s scheduled game. Snell will be receiving the bulk of the carries, to be sure.
But I think that McFarland is the more interesting topic, and if we’re really going to be honest, here, he’s the more exciting player, as well. He has speed that no other running back on the roster has, which the Steelers haven’t made much use of so far.
Dave Bryan has been begging for Randy Fichtner to run a wheel route for McFarland for a couple of months now. He might finally get his wish in the near future if we see the rookie get an expanded role with the Steelers having a depleted backfield.
Of course, his actual workload is yet to be seen, and it’s almost assured that practice squad running back Wendell Smallwood, whom the team has opted to protect from being signed almost every week, will likely see a fair share of snaps as well.
But McFarland is a player whom the Steelers probably want to get on the field, whom they want to get an extended look at. This is a situation that really caters itself to allowing them to do that, and the fact that the Ravens have a bunch of their front seven unavailable is just the cherry on top.