The Pittsburgh Steelers are halfway through the preseason, and just about done with training camp, yet there still remain a number of significant questions on their roster, at least in terms of the pecking order. Who will be their punter? Their nickel defender? How many linebackers will they keep?
And who will be in the backfield along with Najee Harris? The rookie first-round pick seems to be the only firm, 100 percent lock, though Anthony McFarland is a rather safe bet. It remains to be seen if they will keep three or four halfbacks; yet, like last year, they seem to see enough to like back there to want to keep four. That includes veteran Kalen Ballage, who was signed as a free agent and is just getting back on the field.
“I thought he’s had some good moments. We’ll be excited to get him back out there”, head coach Mike Tomlin said of the fourth-year runner. “He’s missed a block of time. That’s obviously significant in this process. But he’s still got some time to make up ground, and it’s good to have him back out there working”.
A 2018 former fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins, Ballage does not have a distinguished career by any means. He holds a career 3.1-yard rushing average, gaining 629 yards on the ground on 201 attempts, with seven touchdowns. He has another 285 yards on 52 receptions, which is also rather inefficient.
And yet he seems to pass the eye test, at least in Pittsburgh. He played well in the first preseason game, better than his stat line looks (19 yards on five carries with one touchdown). But no matter how good you look in one preseason game, that’s not enough to earn yourself a spot on the 53-man roster.
Tomlin offered praise for the veteran following the first preseason game, saying that “good-finish, high-energy big men is gonna be a catalyst for our running game” when asked about him, “and really, our football team”.
Unfortunately for him, he left the game with a lower-body injury. He wouldn’t be seen much again until yesterday when he returned to the practice field. He now has two more preseason games to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster in the hopes of helping the Steelers turn around their 32nd-ranked running game.