Subs Todman and Toussaint provide lift for Steelers
PITTSBURGH (AP) Jordan Todman and Fitzgerald Toussaint have spent their respective NFL careers finding work where they could get it, quietly doing their business on the scout team or second string, never wavering in their belief they could be difference makers if given the chance.
In the rain on the road with the season in the balance, the two Pittsburgh Steelers reserves did more than just serve as placeholders for injured starter DeAngelo Williams. They proved they can make it in the unforgiving crucible of the playoffs.
Todman ran for a game-high 65 yards while Toussaint had 118 yards of total offense in Pittsburgh's 18-16 wild-card win over the Bengals on Saturday. Though Williams is hopeful his injured right foot will be good enough to go for next weekend's trip to Denver, the Steelers running game appears to be in good hands either way.
''It's still unbelievable man,'' Toussaint said.
Pittsburgh signed Todman on Sept. 6 after he failed to make the final 53-man roster in Carolina (despite a 49-yard touchdown sprint against the Steelers in the preseason finale) and added Toussaint to the practice squad a day later. They worked most of the year as ''in case of emergency, break glass'' options behind Williams and Le'Veon Bell. Then Bell tore a ligament in his right knee on Nov. 1 and Williams had his right foot crunched while facing Cleveland in Week 17.
So much for being afterthoughts.
Yet Todman and Toussaint (already being dubbed ''TNT'' in some social media circles) hardly seemed overcome by the stage or facing the league's seventh-ranked run defense. Toussaint's first carry lost a yard but his second was an authoritative burst over left tackle for nine. Todman entered late in the first quarter and darted for 23 yards on consecutive carries.
''I felt like we were pretty good, pretty consistent,'' Todman said. ''We had a little rhythm.''
They began the night with all of 76 yards rushing on the season - about 1,460 yards less than the two guys they were replacing. Yet Todman and Toussaint kept finding room and taking some of the pressure off quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had trouble facing an occasional downpour and a Cincinnati pass rush that rarely let him get comfortable.
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Toussaint lacks Bell's quick feet or subtlety. He was checked for a concussion when a collision sent the top of his helmet crashing onto the bridge of his nose, creating a gash that made him look like a stunt double in ''Creed.''
''They ran some tests on me, had me say a couple things,'' Toussaint said. ''The finger test, I passed it with flying colors and I was good.''
The Steelers needed him to be. The player who came in with three receptions in his brief career played a vital role in Pittsburgh's last-gasp drive. Trailing by two with less than 90 seconds to go and with Roethlisberger's range limited thanks to a throbbing right shoulder, Toussaint suddenly became the most dangerous player on the field.
He caught consecutive lobs of seven and 10 yards to push the Steelers toward midfield and only Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson's outstretched arm prevented a surprise draw play from the Pittsburgh 37 from turning into a big gainer.
''When you can go out there and got both guys out there, both making plays (it shows) they have confidence in both of us,'' Toussaint said.
A confidence Pittsburgh expects to carry over to Denver. Even if Williams can play, it's almost a given that Toussaint and Todman will be on the field at some point as the Steelers try to earn a trip to the AFC championship game for the first time in five years.
Whatever jitters they may have carried with them into the postseason are now a distant memory. Todman, who bounced from Minnesota to San Diego to Jacksonville to Carolina before winding up in Pittsburgh, had to wait five years to be indoctrinated into the playoffs. It proved to be well worth it.
''That was probably the most stressful one, the most ups and downs, highs and lows,'' he said. ''It's amazing how one little thing can change the outcome of the game.''
Or maybe not so little. The Steelers are still playing thanks in part to contributions from two players who heard head coach Mike Tomlin repeat his ''next man up'' mantra ad nauseam all season and took it to heart. Sure, there was a lot of chaos in the final seconds. That was new. The Steelers finding a way to win in January was not, no matter who is on the field.
''I just believe in the guys in this room and the way we prepare all week long,'' Toussaint said. ''That gets us out of stadiums like that.''
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