The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Week 8 with running back Anthony McFarland Jr. still officially on the team’s Reserve/Injured list. That figures to change very soon, however, as McFarland’s 21-day practice window was opened on October 6. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked if the team anticipates activating McFarland from the Reserve/Injured list this week as a designated-to-return player and if so, if there is a specific kind of role he sees the second year running back filling.
“I’m anticipating us activating him,” Tomlin said of McFarland. “I think the week’s work will determine if there’s a role and if there is, what that role is.”
In short, expect McFarland to be activated to the 53-man roster ahead of the team’s Sunday road game against the Cleveland Browns. When will that activation officially happen? It probably depends on if the team’s bye week counts against the McFarland’s 21-day window. If it does count, McFarland figures to be activated to the 53-man roster by Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. EST. If, however, the bye week doesn’t count against McFarland’s 21-day window, then we could see him activated to the 53-man roster as late as Saturday afternoon.
Whenever McFarland is activated to the 53-man roster from the Reserve/Injured list this week as a designated-to-return player, the Steelers will need to make a reciprocal move to accommodate him. That reciprocal move could include one of the team’s two other backup running backs, Benny Snell Jr., or Kalen Ballage, getting cut or traded. Snell has played a lot more special teams snaps of the two backups to date so don’t be surprised if he sticks and if Ballage is the one jettisoned in some capacity.
McFarland has been on the Steelers’ Reserve/Injured list since the start of the regular season. He reportedly needed a torn MCL repaired, and that resulted in the second year running back out of Maryland missing time to start the 2021 season.
If things go like most seem to think they will, McFarland will see his first action of the 2021 season on Sunday against the Browns.