2021 South Side Questions: How Much Will Anthony McFarland Contribute Right Away?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom are starting.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. Even if they play them poorly. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

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. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: How much will running back Anthony McFarland contribute now that he is back on the 53-man roster?

With the Steelers activating Anthony McFarland to the 53-man roster on Wednesday, they now have four halfbacks in play. Only rookie starter Najee Harris has garnered a significant amount of playing time so far this season, with Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage relegated to minor rotational work.

Will that be any different for McFarland, the fourth-round pick out of Maryland last year? He had fewer than 40 touches as a rookie last season, but he also was clearly not ready for a larger role. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked on Wednesday about seeing a different player this year, however, including how his body has transformed.

The thing about McFarland is that he has speed that no other running back on the roster has, and the Steelers believe they can utilize that dimension of his game to their advantage. Having played under offensive coordinator Matt Canada in college, there is also added reason to believe they can make it work.

There were some indications throughout training camp and the preseason that they do intend to make use of him in their offense, possibly even two-back sets with both him and Harris on the field together, but we’ll really have to wait and see on all of this.

The reality is that the young back really hasn’t accomplished anything at the NFL level yet. He didn’t even stick out positively during the preseason, for the most part, either. And since then, he has been sidelined with an injury. We can’t even guarantee that he’s going to dress right away, though I suspect that he will.

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