With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned our attention to the offseason. 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: Up
Reasoning: The Steelers have not re-signed running back Benny Snell Jr. or fullback Derek Watt. As we sit here today, McFarland would likely be positioned as the third running back, with a possible cushion of the Steelers carrying four running backs with no fullback.
Most held the opinion a year ago that Anthony McFarland Jr. had the best offseason of his career in 2022. It still didn’t prove to be enough at that particular time with the Steelers needing an extra roster spot for the defensive line and due to the emergence of Jaylen Warren as a rookie college free agent.
The end result was that the Steelers waived him and re-signed him instead to the practice squad. That is where he spent the entirety of the 2022 season short of one game, for which he was elevated to the 53-man roster due to injuries to Najee Harris and Warren.
He only got 21 snaps in that game, but he rushed for 30 yards on six carries along with two receptions for 11 yards, being arguably the best game of his career after his first, in which he rushed for 42 yards on six carries with a seven-yard reception.
While not incredibly common, it is not unprecedented for a rostered draft pick to find himself on the way to the practice squad and to regain his positioning a year later. That’s what McFarland is hoping to do, and right now he seems to be in position to do so.
At the moment, he is arguably the third running back behind Harris and Warren, and there’s no guarantee at all that the Steelers will use a draft pick on another one. They have not re-signed four-year veteran Benny Snell Jr., though of course they can at any time provided that he doesn’t sign anywhere else.
With the evident decision—for now—not to re-sign fullback Derek Watt, however, the odds of the Steelers carrying four running backs greatly increases. That is something they do more frequently than you might think, last occurring in 2021.
McFarland still has quickness that the other running backs in the room lack, and thus could add a change-of-pace element that somebody like Master Teague cannot. The only other running back currently on the roster is Jason Huntley. He has 18 career rushes for 70 yards as a former fifth-round pick and spent the 2022 season with McFarland on the Steelers’ practice squad.
The fact that they don’t currently have a return man who they haven’t benched doesn’t hurt him, either.