The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Anthony McFarland will be a part of the solution to the Steelers’ run-game woes in Matt Canada’s offense during his second season.
Explanation: Drafted in the fourth round a year ago, McFarland had an insubstantial rookie season, during which he spent a chunk of time as a healthy scratch. While he flashed potential, he also looked raw and frankly, at times, overly excited for the moment. But a year in the league, and having his former college offensive coordinator as his new professional offensive coordinator, are two big feathers in his cap coming into 2021.
I figured we should all know by now that it’s nothing short of foolishness to write off a player after his rookie season. There are plenty of examples of players performing below the standard right out of the gate while developing into excellent players a short time later. David DeCastro is an example off the top of my head, though his rookie year was of course also marred by significant injury.
Anyway, the point is that McFarland will be much smarter and prepared in 2021 than he was this past year, and he’ll better allow his natural abilities to take over. One thing that he did do last year was show his speed and quickness, and a hint of elusiveness at times.
Then you add in the potential for having an offensive coordinator that will actually make proper use of his skill set, and you can really envision the possibility of him being a significant and positive contributor.
While he might not quite be a scatback, as he does have some muscle and power to him, McFarland isn’t big enough to get by with his level of skill at this level. Certainly not enough to create his own yardage, which is what he would have to do in Pittsburgh.
The main issue with the running game isn’t even the people carrying the ball. It’s the people blocking for the people carrying the ball. It’s hard for anybody to be successful behind this line, let alone a smaller back who doesn’t have elite speed, even if his speed is above average, with the need for him to be able to consistently win the edge to overcome blocking.