Anthony McFarland should be soaring up Steelers depth chart

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland (26). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland (26). Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers still have a lot to figure out when it comes to the pecking order, but Anthony McFarland is making a case to be RB2 in 2022.

The Steelers are playing things very cautiously with Najee Harris, and that’s okay. The former 24th overall pick from the 2021 draft was their bell-cow back as a rookie last year and that’s not expected to change.

Unfortunately, Harris has been dealing with a foot injury that has kept him sidelined at practice this past week. The good news is that his injury isn’t serious, and he would be able to return to the field if he had to.

Harris’ minor ailment paves the way for much more opportunities among the rest of the running backs on Steelers roster. Unsurprisingly, Benny Snell has carved out a majority of the first-team reps in his place.

The team has also witnessed some sparks from undrafted rookies Jaylen Warren and Mataeo Durant. Now that Jeremy McNichols is on IR, the Steelers recently added former Ohio State running back, Master Teague. He will throw his hat in the ring for an opportunity to crack the roster.

However, one running back has clearly been the best of the group, in my opinion. That player is former fourth-round pick, Anthony McFarland.

McFarland shines at Steelers training camp

McFarland has dealt with some minor injuries in the first two seasons of his NFL career, and overall, I’m pretty disappointed to see him get just 36 carries since entering the league. There have certainly been some missed opportunities on some of these and his vision has come into question.

I know we are still very early into Steelers training camp, but I couldn’t be more impressed with McFarland than what I have witnessed so far. Over the past several practices, McFarland has shown a different level of speed and burst that no other running back on the roster possesses. Though there haven’t been many live tackling sessions, he has been electric with the football in his hands.

McFarland has also turned heads as a pass-catcher. He has routinely dusted linebackers during one-on-one drills and has exploded for huge gains during 11-on-11s.

While his opportunities have been limited in the regular season early in his career, he clearly looks like a cut above the rest at Steelers training camp so far. Meanwhile, Benny Snell still looks like a plodding, mechanical running back without much speed or quickness at all. As has been the case in the first three seasons of his career, he is usually swallowed shortly after reaching the line of scrimmage.

I know that McFarland doesn’t have the ideal size to carry the load if Najee Harris were to go down for any length of time during the regular season, but I still believe he is making a fantastic case to be the team’s RB2 this season.

McFarland could still prove to be a competent change-of-pace back and offer next-level speed to Harris’ power. While this probably won’t become much of a one-two punch (as Najee is sure to dominate the workload), McFarland is a player who could give them a spark every now and then and has the potential to take it the distance with his 4.4-speed.

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There is still plenty of time before the start of the regular season for the pecking order to change and for others to prove themselves, but right now, it’s really not close. Anthony McFarland has clearly been the best running back at Steelers training camp and they should reward him by elevating him on the depth chart.