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2023 Stock Watch – RB Anthony McFarland Jr. – Stock Down

Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season is over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn our attention to the offseason and everything that means. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: RB Anthony McFarland Jr.

Stock Value: Down

Reasoning: From a season-long perspective, McFarland obviously ended worse off than he began due to the emergence of Jaylen Warren. As a result, he spent all but one game on the practice squad after spending his first two seasons on the 53-man roster (or Reserve/Injured List), even if he did take advantage of the one opportunity he got.

I do want to stress that this is a season-long view, beginning from before training camp, and really is less reflective of McFarland’s performance than it is his circumstances. Most largely agree that the former Terp had the best offseason out of three since he entered the league. It’s just unfortunate for him that it happened to come in a year in which they finally hit on a college free agent.

That would be Jaylen Warren, who ended up making such an impact that the Steelers actively worked to get him on the field more, targeting about 30 percent of the snap distribution in a workload sharing plan with Najee Harris.

Benny Snell Jr.’s established special teams bona fides helped allow him to retain his own spot on the 53-man roster, and due to some positional luxuries elsewhere (most notably keeping seven defensive linemen), the Steelers were unable to accommodate four halfbacks as they often had in the past—most recently in 2021, with McFarland being one of them.

It’s hard to say where this leaves him going into 2023. Snell is an unrestricted free agent, but my inclination is that they intend to re-sign him. What chances does McFarland have of unseating him for the third running back spot? And how likely are they to potentially keep four?

His best bet might be to make another run at throwing his hat in the ring for the returner job. He didn’t get to do too much of that last year. And with both Gunner Olszewski and Steven Sims having some weaknesses in ball security, I don’t think we can consider the job already locked down. Neither of those wide receivers are even guaranteed to make the roster, the latter being a pending restricted free agent, the former due $2 million after losing the job he was signed to perform.

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