2023 Stock Watch – RB Anthony McFarland Jr. – Up

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we turn 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 addressed the running back position this offseason, which includes not re-signing Benny Snell Jr., who has spent the past four years as the team’s second or third player at the position. That is good news for Anthony McFarland Jr. as he looks to find his way back to the 53-man roster.

A former fourth-round draft pick, Anthony McFarland Jr. has not had the career some anticipated for him, up to this point. While lacking experience at the college level, his tape revealed impressive speed and quickness, and a bit more strength than his size might have let on.

His NFL career hasn’t translated to that yet, but he hasn’t had much opportunity for the past two years. He spent a good chunk of the 2021 season on the Reserve/Injured List. By the time he returned, he was behind the proverbial moving train.

Last year, of course, he was the victim of the emergence of Jaylen Warren as a college free agent. Benny Snell Jr. made the roster as the third back ahead of him, in no small part due to special teams, but McFarland otherwise likely would have been on the team.

The Steelers did carry him on the practice squad all year and used him to good effect in one game when they had injuries at running back. That cameo likely left a good impression in that room and perhaps an idea of what kind of change of pace McFarland could provide in an actually coherent running game.

But we don’t know how the offseason is going to play out. The Steelers may draft a running back, albeit late, and they are certainly going to add some players to the mix as rookie college free agents. They’re also surely perusing the veteran market for whatever help they might find useful.

At least for the time being, however, McFarland is looking like he’s on the inside of the roster bubble. With fullback Derek Watt not currently under contract, that could increase the odds of them carrying four running backs.

On top of that, the Steelers also lost their return man in Steven Sims. McFarland can once again throw his hat into that ring as he tries to stake his claim to a spot on the 53-man roster. He will have to earn his way, but there is a running lane for him.

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