Mike Tomlin Explains Why Anthony McFarland Jr. Was Inactive Against Bears

Surprisingly, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. was made inactive ahead of the team’s Monday night game against the Chicago Bears. That was surprising due to McFarland playing last Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and then not showing up on the injury report this past week.

On Thursday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about McFarland being inactive Monday night against the Bears, and if that was maybe a result of the second-year running back having some sort of a setback with the injured knee that had him on the team’s Reserve/Injured list for the first six games of the season.

“He did not,” Tomlin said. “We just chose to play the guys based on the plan that we thought gave us the best chance of winning and fit what we were trying to do last night. So, he’ll be included in the potential formula this week and we’ll see where that road leads us in terms of how we divide the running back labor up this week.”

So, McFarland was essentially just a healthy scratch Monday night against the Bears. That meant that the team’s two other running backs, Benny Snell Jr. and Kalen Ballage, both got helmets Monday night. Snell played just six offensive snaps Monday night, but did log a whopping 23 total snaps on special teams. As for Ballage, he played just seven offensive snaps Monday night, with six other snaps coming on special teams.

McFarland is not a special teams asset, so that does somewhat play a role in him not getting a helmet at times. That said, he’s supposed to be the backup running back by this point, so it’s concerning that he hasn’t proven himself worthy of that weekly designation just yet.

To date, McFarland, the Steelers’ fourth-round draft pick in 2020 out of Maryland, has played all of 96 total offensive snaps since entering the NFL. He’s also registered just 40 total touches on offense to date.

Will McFarland dress on Sunday against the Lions? We’ll see. The Steelers might have to have one of their running backs inactive again for that Week 10 contest, and if that’s indeed the case, either McFarland or Ballage are likely to be the odd man out, as Snell is counted on to play a lot on special teams. Stay tuned.

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