With training camp just around the corner, it’s time to turn our focus on what is going on within each position, and on the roster as a whole. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will be taking a closer look at some of the roster battles that we expect to see unfold over the course of training camp as the Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the start of the 2021 season.
Unlike last season, which was carried out through a pandemic, things should return much to normal this year, which should help provide us with clearer insights into where people stand. The return of the preseason in particular is a crucial window into operations that we lacked a year ago.
Position: Running Back
Up for Grabs: Depth
In the Mix: Benny Snell Jr., Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds
Looking back, the Steelers are actually fairly thin at running back for a 90-man training camp roster. The only back not listed here is Najee Harris, for obvious reasons, but nobody else behind him can definitely say that he’s going to have a job, or at least a spot on the Steelers’ 53-man roster, a month and a half from now.
Anthony McFarland figures to have the best odds of making the team as the back who has a change-of-pace skill set. Possessing great speed, and having previously been coached at the college level by the team’s offensive coordinator, the second-year back has certain advantages playing out in his favor.
At least one of Benny Snell Jr. and Kalen Ballage is likely to make the team, as well, though their similarity may result in only one of the two being carried, rather than both. Frankly, since the spring, we’ve been hearing more about Ballage than Snell.
As for Jaylen Samuels, he’s still in the running, regardless of what fans want to think. But he surely knows he’s on his last legs, and will have to earn his way onto the roster by playing the best ball of his career by a good margin. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, he is clearly on the bubble.
Last to be discussed is Trey Edmunds, the other brother of starting safety Terrell. Both have been around Pittsburgh since 2018, with Trey bouncing back and forth between the 53-man roster and the practice squad. When called up, his primary assignment has been to serve on special teams, but he figures to be on the outside looking in with this top-heavy running back room.
The biggest question the Steelers face is whether they want to carry only three halfbacks, or if they have room to go with four, as they did a year ago. If they can swing the extra roster spot, I’m sure they would prefer to go with four, but it’s likely that it can be better used elsewhere, with practice squad roles available.