One positional group that is hard to predict in Pittsburgh is the running back position. Here’s who could make the Steelers final roster now that Jeremy McNichols is in town.
The Steelers recently added another running back to the fold in Jeremy McNichols. While this wasn’t a splash signing that has a lof of fans excited, the added depth makes it even more difficult to predict which running backs will make the final 53-man roster heading into the 2022 regular season.
McNichols was primarily a receiving back for the Tennessee Titans last season. A true journeyman by every definition, McNichols has been a member of a whopping 10 different NFL teams as he enters his sixth NFL season — this time with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Depending on how Steelers training camp goes with this RB group, I can certainly see Pittsburgh adding another running back that could throw his hat in the ring for the primary backup job this season. This could happen as other teams make cuts.
We have also seen the Steelers get aggressive enough to trade a day three pick for a player they think can come in and better their team, so this isn’t out of the question either.
For now, however, let’s assume that the Steelers don’t add another running back prior to the start of the 2022 season. Which players then make the roster at the position?
Which Steelers RBs make the final roster?
Let’s start with the given. Najee Harris is not only one of the safest roster-locks on the entire team, he stands to touch the ball more than any non-quarterback on the roster this year (just like he did as a rookie in 2021). He’s the clear-cut workhorse running back for Pittsburgh who won’t often leave the field.
Behind him, it gets just a bit more tricky. As much as I have been underwhelmed with his play over his first three seasons, Benny Snell Jr. seems likely to land the RB2 job behind Harris — considering the current depth at the position.
At 5’10 3/8” and 224 pounds, Snell is the only other back on the team with the frame to handle the load between the tackles if Najee goes down for any length of time. Snell can also handle some short-yardage work and can spell Najee if he needs a break.
After these two, predicting the RB3 becomes very complicated. In the past, the Pittsburgh Steelers have kept four running backs on the team (excluding a fullback). The fourth was often inactive or served in a special teams role (a la Trey Edmunds).
That seems very unlikely to be the case in 2022. Edmunds was cut to make room for McNichols, but McNichols doesn’t have much special teams experience despite being in his 6th NFL season.
Fighting for the third RB spot on the team is Jeremy McNichols and Anthony McFarland as well as undrafted rookies Mataeo Durant and Jaylen Warren. This could very well become a situation where there are four players fighting for just one roster spot.
McFarland offers top-end speed that the others don’t possess, while McNichols is more valuable as pass catcher out of the backfield. At this point, Durant and Warren seem like longshots to crack the roster in their first season unless they can make a splash in the preseason and really impress on special teams.
We are still very early in Steelers training camp, but if I had to make a prediction at this point in time, I think Pittsburgh will go with Najee Harris, Benny Snell, and Jeremy McNichols at the running back position for the 2022 season. This will be a big summer for every running back not named Harris.