While the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t draft a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft, they did bring two in as undrafted free agents. One of them, RB Mateao Durant out of Duke, spoke to the Index-Journal of Greenvile, S.C. about his excitement joining the team.
“This is just a great opportunity for myself and also my family,” Mataeo Durant said. “This is something that I have always dreamed of and I know that my parents have instilled a lot of things in me to be able to get to this opportunity. It’s just a very happy day.”
Durant, who received a $15,000 signing bonus from Pittsburgh, will provide much-needed depth in the Steelers’ RB room. Right now, Pittsburgh just has Najee Harris, Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland Jr., and Trey Edmunds in the running back room along with Durant and fellow UDFA Jaylen Warren. While Snell has shown flashes, he hasn’t shown the capacity to be a true no. 2 back in the league yet. Durant is coming off a season where he was a First Team All-ACC selection and broke the Duke single-season record for total rushing yards, running for 1,241 yards and 9 touchdowns on 255 carries.
He also contributed as a receiver out of the backfield and occasionally split out wide with 27 receptions for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. As a junior, Durant was named the team MVP after averaging 6.8 yards per carry en route to a 817-yard season where he also ran for eight touchdowns. His durability is also a plus, as he missed only four games in his tenure at Duke.
Durant’s strength is in his burst and one-cut ability, as he’s a speedy and elusive runner who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He also doesn’t shy away from contact in pass protection, but there is still room for improvement in that aspect of his game. His receiving ability is also a plus. The knock on Durant is that he doesn’t run with much power. He doesn’t have the ability to push piles which hurts him in short yardage situations and he goes down rather easily on contact.
However, he provides an interesting presence in the running back room as a true speed back and possible receiving option out of the backfield. Durant will likely try to fight for the RB3 role along with Warren, McFarland Jr., and Edmunds. It could come down to whether or not the Steelers prefer having another power back behind Harris and Snell Jr. or if they want someone with more speed like Durant. Durant also doesn’t have a ton special teams experience in college, which could hurt his chances of sticking on the roster. Still, as a priority UDFA, Durant is someone interesting to watch who could have some upside.