If you took Mike Tomlin solely at his word Monday, he doesn’t see the need to add help behind Najee Harris on the Steelers’ running back depth chart. Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland is all you need.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Tomlin was asked to evaluate the group behind Harris.
“Both capable young guys,” Tomlin said in his yearly pre-draft presser shared on the team’s YouTube channel. “Their resumes speak for themselves. Benny has been capable as a backup runner, been capable as a teamer. McFarland less so. Less availability there.”
Pointing to resumes might not be the endorsement Tomlin was aiming for. Snell has carved out an impressive niche on special teams but has done little as a runner. On 255 career carries, he’s averaging just 3.5 YPC, a number that dipped down to 2.7 last year on just 36 attempts.
Since entering the league in 2018, his 3.5 yard average ranks 87th out of the 90 players with 200+ carries over that span. The only names behind him include Peyton Barber, the husk of Le’Veon Bell’s career, and Kalen Ballage, another Steelers’ backup runner last season. In fairness, Snell’s issues aren’t solely on him. He’s had to run behind an aging and then in 2021, a brand new offensive line that hasn’t always opened up lanes. But Snell isn’t a dynamic runner and best served as a #3 back and core special teamer.
McFarland’s career has been even less successful. The owner of just 36 carries totes, he’s averaged just 3.2 YPC. An MCL injury sidelined him for the first half of 2021 and he struggled to catch a moving train once he got healthy, rarely seeing the field. He logged just 19 snaps a year ago.
Despite Tomlin’s typical optimistic tone, he hinted the team could look to add outside competition.,
“They’ll define their roles with how they perform. Obviously how they perform against competition that’s here and maybe competition that is not here.”
Pittsburgh certainly has a “type” at running back moreso than any other position. Big, strong, and not that fast, and the few times they’ve strayed away from that, they’ve failed (Dri Archer, Chris Rainey, and seemingly McFarland). Running backs who fit the bill include Michigan’s Hassan Haskins, West Virginia’s Leddie Brown, Ole Miss’ Snoop Conner, and LSU’s Ty Davis-Price.