The story of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Indianapolis Colts was its run game. A solid and steady 172 yard performance done largely without starting RB Najee Harris, limited in the first half and sitting out the entire second stanza. Benny Snell led the Steelers and provided the game-winning touchdown but to Mike Tomlin, Anthony McFarland was the unsung hero of the game. That’s what he said on the latest installment of The Mike Tomlin Show.
“I thought the big story was Ant Mac and him getting an opportunity,” he told host Bob Pompeani. “I don’t think any of us were surprised by Benny’s contributions.”
McFarland received the call-up hours before Monday’s game, earning the opportunity following rookie Jaylen Warren’s hamstring injury that caused him to be a gameday inactive. McFarland was likely ticketed for a bit offensive role coming into the game but it quickly expanded once Harris was injured. McFarland ended up logging 21 offensive snaps, the most he’s ever logged offensively in the NFL, and carried the ball six times for 30 yards while chipping in two receptions for 11 yards.
McFarland flashed the speed and burst that got him drafted with three touches that went for at least nine yards, his longest going on a 14 yard run. A 4.4 player out of Maryland, he’s had a tough start to his career, dealing with limited opportunities and not playing well when giving the chance before being bypassed by Warren this summer. Still, McFarland’s shown signs of being a strong runner, impressing in camp, but a lack of well-rounded value hurt his odds of having a role on the team.
As we wrote about in the lead-up to the game, Monday may have been McFarland’s best and last chance to impress not only the Steelers but any future teams. Harris and Warren are healthy and playing tomorrow against the Atlanta Falcons while Benny Snell remains on the roster as the team’s #3. McFarland reverted back to the practice squad following the Colts game and will officially remain there for this game. If the backfield stays healthy the rest of the season, he’ll stay there. But for at least one game, McFarland provided serious value to the Steelers and put his hand in the pile, as so many did, to secure a victory.