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: Given that a number of starters are likely to be sidelined for rest purposes in the season finale, and the game doesn’t mean a significant deal to the Steelers, it seems probable that rookie running back Anthony McFarland will get a helmet again this weekend and get a chance to get into the game.
I have no inside information, and so am working on personal speculation here, but it seems reasonable to assume that at least the majority of the players who will make up the Steelers’ Sunday gameday inactive list will be starting players whom head coach Mike Tomlin is choosing to give a week of rest.
In consequence, this means that players who have spent most or part of the year as healthy scratches, such as running back Anthony McFarland and Joshua Dobbs and Isaiah Buggs, will get the opportunity to dress, and to get playing time that they ordinarily wouldn’t.
A fourth-round pick out of Maryland with really pretty minimal college experience, McFarland drew some buzz about his potential, but suffice it to say that he has had his rookie moments this year. In all, he has been inactive for five games this season, and that includes two of the past three games (with James Conner being unavailable in the other one).
On the season, he has recorded 28 carries for 96 yards, but produced just three first downs. He also has six receptions for 54 yards. He has yet to play more than 14 snaps in any one game this year, and as a whole, has played just 76 on offense.
Given the situation, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see the rookie play 20-plus snaps against the Browns, especially if they are able to somehow secure a nice lead. Not only will they want to preserve some of their other backs, they will also want to get a look at McFarland heading into 2021, with the reality being that he will probably continue to be a healthy scratch into the postseason.