LATROBE, PA -- The Pittsburgh Steelers' season has not started, but already, the team is dealing with injuries. Their injury report is up to 14 players, which includes three out of their five running backs - and fullback Derek Watt.
Heading into the preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, head coach Mike Tomlin did not rule any of his players out but did allude to guys who have missed significant time being sidelined. That likely means Najee Harris and Mateo Durant, who has missed most of the week with a concussion, out on Saturday.
Benny Snell Jr. was seen leaving practice yesterday with a wrap around his knee and was then seen the following morning leaving Saint Vincent College's campus with a trainer while the team was hosting a walk-through.
So, if you were to name the running back rotation for the Steelers this weekend, chances are it would only include Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren and Master Teague III.
And as bad as that sounds, it might be good news for the Steelers.
McFarland has worked all over the offense during training camp, lining up in the backfield, out wide, in the slot and at halfback. The game plan includes a number of plays designed specifically to get him the ball in space.
Mitch Trubisky, who will start at quarterback for the Steelers, said he can't wait to see the "in-game operations" of the first team. Now, they have nothing stopping them from testing McFarland's role.
"Show that I can really do everything," McFarland said on what he's looking to show in the preseason opener. "Play the running back position, definitely throw my nose in there and pass-protect. Just everything. I'm trying to work on being an all-purpose back."
The third-year running back had a lot of potential heading into camp last season. That evaporated with a late camp injury. Earlier this summer, he told me he acknowledges that and has worked hard to overcome it this year.
With a new offensive plan and leading the running back room into the first live game, this is his chance to do just that.
"Coming into my third year, I'm just trying to get myself into that mentality of being a vet," McFarland said. "I feel like each year that I've been here, I've learned a lot on the field, off the field. My rookie year, getting hurt and going through surgery my second year. I just learning through a lot how to really be a professional. Your abilities and your talents, it's about what you do off the field as well. It's the little things I'm learning about."
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