The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books, and it ended in spectacular fashion—though the wrong kind of spectacular—in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.
After setting a franchise record by opening the year on an 11-game winning streak, they followed that up by losing three games in a row, going 1-4 in the final five games, with only a 17-point comeback staving off a five-game slide. But all the issues they had in the regular season showed up in the postseason that resulted in their early exit.
The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions, and right now, they lack answers. What will Ben Roethlisberger do, and what will they do with him? What will the salary cap look like? How many free agents are they going to lose? Who could they possibly afford to retain? Who might they part ways with—not just on the roster, but also on the coaching staff?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Which of the running backs who were with the team prior to the draft will make the 53-man roster?
The Steelers made it pretty clear that they felt a change was necessary at the running back position, using their first round draft pick on Najee Harris, the star out of Alabama. He will step in from day one as their new featured back after the team allowed James Conner to leave in free agency upon the expiration of his rookie contract.
But what will the rest of the depth chart look like? They still have four other running backs who have carried the ball for them in the past, and added another back in free agency. Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds are the most experienced, while Benny Snell moves into his third season and Anthony McFarland his second. Kalen Ballage was the free agent signing.
This works itself into a two-part question. In answering it, you also have to determine how many running backs the Steelers will actually carry, which varies between three and four. It was four last season, and at times even five during the 2019 trials.
McFarland was a fourth-round pick a year ago, by pedigree certainly granted nothing. But he is also the most ‘different’ runner on the field, and a likely fit for Matt Canada’s offense. He has the best chance of remaining. Snell and Ballage, for me, are pretty close, but it’s possible both are kept. Could Samuels sneak his way in for another year, as well?