Following their impressive preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons, the Pittsburgh Steelers will have just a few days to figure out the final pieces of their roster and decide which 53 players to keep for the 2023 season. Dating back to late July, some young players have really turned heads, while others seem to have fizzled out in recent weeks.
Based on everything I have seen this summer -- both during my time spent in Latrobe and after dissecting each Steelers preseason game -- there are three roster bubble players who clearly have earned a spot on the team this year. Here's why these players deserve to stick around and carve out a role on the team in 2023.
1. Steelers must keep RB Anthony McFarland Jr.
Let's start with a player who I thought was gypped out of a job last year. During the 2022 preseason, running back Anthony McFarland Jr. managed an impressive 5.7 yards per carry during the summer only to lose the RB3 job to an unspectacular Benny Snell Jr.
This offseason, Pittsburgh elected not to bring Snell back for another go after his rookie contract expired, and McFarland has once again taken advantage. However, this time around, there isn't even a close fourth running back to compete with him for this final spot.
McFarland does not fit the mold of what Mike Tomlin typically looks for in his RB3. Outside of returning kicks, McFarland can't be deployed in special teams coverage units, and this hurts him a bit. At the same time, Tomlin and his staff should be thrilled with the burst and explosion McFarland has shown during the 2023 preseason. In the preseason finale, McFarland busted off a 31-yard run and had an impressive run through traffic to extend for a touchdown.
McFarland is never going to be a player who brakes many arm tackles, but he possesses speed that kills and his next-level quickness can help the Steelers create more explosive plays in 2023. He deserves to make the final roster this year and carve out a role earning a couple of carries per game.