Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: Though he did not have a strong rookie season, and actually spent a fair amount of time as a healthy scratch, there is reason to expect him to be better prepared in his second season, especially with Matt Canada stepping into the offensive coordinator role.
The Steelers were excited about getting Anthony McFarland out of Maryland last year, but one wonders what they expected out of him as a rookie. He did manage to get 33 carries, but they also seemed all along to intend to carry four running backs, and they even left him as a healthy scratch to start the season.
McFarland only played two years of college ball, and spent time in his second season injured, so he had limited exposure, but what he did have is quickness, and they saw in him a lot of untapped talent. We saw flashes of that during his rookie season, but he sometimes worked against himself, seemingly overexcited to make a play.
The plays were there though, if he can take the next step, and one would imagine that Matt Canada, who was his offensive coordinator and interim head coach during his successful freshman season at Maryland, can help him get there.
McFarland spoke glowingly of Canada at the Combine last year, well before he had any idea that he would be drafted by the Steelers, even though they had only spent one year together. I can only assume that the new offensive coordinator will have more ideas about how to make use of his quickness.
The Steelers have talked about a commitment to the run game this year, which will almost surely not include James Conner. There is an opening for the lead back, if there will be a lead back. McFarland can step into the snap void that will exist as a result, and help to add a different dimension to this offense that they haven’t had, hopefully this time with a full season and an actual plan about how to use him.