More of McFarland In The Steelers Future?

BehindTheSteelCurtain

By: Jonathan Clark
SteelerNation.com

 

With 124th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, our very own Pittsburgh Steelers selected Anthony McFarland Jr. — a 21 year old speedster running back out of the University of Maryland who had just come off one of his biggest seasons yet in a Maryland uniform. The move surprised most of us as fans, knowing the depth the Steelers had at the running back position. They seemed to have formed a tandem of bruiser backs in Benny Snell Jr. and James Conner, complimented by a Jaylen Samuels type, a receiver out of the backfield with speed to get around the edge. What I believe prompted this move, was the fact that all three of them did not play a full 16 game season last year due to injuries. A security blanket, if you will.

During his freshman season with the Terrapins, McFarland rushed for over 1,034 yards and 4 touchdowns, averaging close to 8 yards per game (7.8 to be exact). That was good for #2 overall in all of the NCAA Division 1 schools. He showed his athleticism and ability to create that second burst after he hits the line of scrimmage, something I’m sure many teams noticed. 

 

 

While a huge season was expected in 2019 following his debut season, that was not exactly the case. The sophomore slump was real, and while McFarland did more than double the amount of times he reached the end zone, the rushing yards and yards per game dropped dramatically. He ran for 614 yards and 8 touchdowns, and caught 17 receptions for 126 yards and 1 touchdown. While this is a small sample size to judge, talent just does not go away, and much of that lack of success was due to the Maryland Terrapins finishing that season with a 3-9 record. While that 2019 season may have hurt his draft stock, there is no doubt he could not have landed in a better place.

McFarland joins a crowded locker room of the guys I stated before. Conner, Samuels and Snell Jr. have all already proved that they belong in this league. Each one of them, Conner more than most, have provided SteelerNation with glimpses of hope of what they could accomplish in their futures. What that means for McFarland is that he is going to have to earn his playing time, which might not be such a bad thing for him. 

We’ve spotted #26 receiving a hand-off from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Sundays, and in my opinion, in that very very small sample size, he has impressed. While of late he has yet to make a significant impact, he did have a good game against the Houston Texans in Week 3. He carried the ball 6 times for 42 yards and broke off a 20-yard run that gave the Steelers great field position. He showed that burst that he can hit after the first line of defense, and you can see his natural quickness once he hits open field. His only issue has been playing time. The Steelers RB room is deep this year and Conner has been getting it done solely by himself this year proving to be the “bell cow” head coach Mike Tomlin proclaimed him as before the start of the season. 

 

Sep 27, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland (26) carries the ball as Houston Texans safety A.J. Moore (33) defends during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

As the season progresses and the wear and tear starts to affect players more than usual, I believe we will see more of Anthony McFarland, not just running the ball, but showing his abilities in the passing game — giving the Steelers another weapon to add on offense for years to come. There is no doubt that the talent is there, we just need to see McFarland get more opportunities to show that he does belong in this league. Opportunities that might not be so far away.

 

Do you think McFarland has a future on this Steelers team? Let us know by commenting below!

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