The Pittsburgh Steelers just played their first preseason game of 2022, and man was it an exciting one. We got to see all three quarterbacks put their best foot forward, including a game-winner for rookie Kenny Pickett. The quarterbacks even received praise from recently retired former franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after the game.
Many players showed out in the victory, and some didn’t. One area in particular that there seemed to be a lot of highs and lows was in the running back committee. There were some seriously strong performances, accompanied by a few not so strong. Let’s take a look at who had the best day to the worst day amongst this group.
Steelers Running Back Performance Rankings
1. Anthony McFarland Jr.: McFarland got the start Saturday night and he most certainly made the most of his opportunities. He played a crucial role in the Steelers’ opening drive that resulted in a touchdown, in which he ripped off a 24-yard gain. He then played in the next three drives and compiled 56 yards on seven carries (good for eight yards per carry).
McFarland has had a rough start to his career. His rookie year, he played in a minor relief/gadget role, and last year, he barely saw the field due to injury. McFarland was asked after the game how it felt to get the start and put good tape out. His response:
”It was a good feeling. Anytime you go with the 1’s, you want to display everything that you’ve been working on in the off-season and in camp… I study my game a lot. I feel like I got to keep improving, but I feel like I’ve made some jumps coming from the off-season into camp.”
McFarland certainly helped his case not just for a roster spot, but to potentially be the primary backup to RB1 Najee Harris. If he continues to play like this, he could carve out a role for himself in the offense.
His post game comments as well as his teammates can be seen here.
2. Jaylen Warren: Warren came in after McFarland exited, and also had himself a nice day. He got off to a slow start in the first half where he still saw some time split with McFarland, and also coughed the ball up, only to have it recovered by teammate Miles Boykin.
However in the second half, he took over and started to show what he can do. He compiled 34 yards rushing on six attempts for a healthy 5.7 YPC, and was the only running back involved in the receiving game with four receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown was Pickett’s first NFL passing touchdown. Warren flashed his versatility and play-making, and is certainly pushing to make the roster as of this moment.
3. Master Teague III: Teague played relatively well. He rushed for 31 yards on six carries for 5.2 YPC. However, I don’t believe this was enough to put him ahead of either McFarland or Warren. Nor do I believe he is in the running to potentially beat out Benny Snell for what could be the last roster spot for the running backs at the current moment. Teague unfortunately hopped on a moving train, and to his credit, acquitted himself well. The rest of preseason and training camp will be telling of whether he has a shot to be here by the end or not.
4. Mataeo Durant: Durant saw very little action. He rushed for four yards on two carries. I believe as of right now, this is rather telling of where this could be going. Durant came in as a rookie UFA, and seemed to have some potential upside. However, this limited role and playing time could be the ink for the writing on the wall. It seems as of now, he has an extreme uphill climb to make it not even to the roster, but potentially past the first one round of cuts.
There is still a little less than a month until the season begins, but as of right now, this list seems to be where the coaches have the running back rooms ranked. Snell is likely somewhere either ahead of or in between Warren and McFarland due to familiarity. However, the longer he remains out could be the opportunity that McFarland, Warren, or even Teague need to continue to prove themselves and make a push for a roster spot.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? How would you rank the running backs behind Harris right now? Who will make the roster? Let us know in the comment section below!