By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The final stop in our 12-position breakdown of the Steelers 80-man training camp roster brings us to the backfield. James Conner begins his fourth season in the league as the primary running back, but will have a strong supporting cast in 2020.
As camp rolls on, the Steelers have 10 backs to watch and evaluate this month:
- Anthony McFarland Jr., Rookie (Maryland)
- Ralph Webb, 1st Season
- Benny Snell Jr., 2nd Season
- Kerrith Whyte, 2nd Season
- Trey Edmunds, 3rd Season
- Jaylen Samuels, 3rd Season
- James Conner, 4th Season
- Wendell Smallwood, 4th Season
- Spencer Nigh, Rookie (Auburn)
- Derek Watt, 5th Season
Projected ‘Starters on Sundays’: James Conner (Running Back), Derek Watt (Fullback)
Conner led all Steelers backs with 464 yards while adding four touchdowns. However, the hometown man out of the University of Pittsburgh suffered an injury last season, allowing him to play in just 10 games.
Conner appears to be healthy and will need to have a big year as the Steelers starter.
Watt will join one of his brothers, T.J., after signing a three-year deal in March. Watt spent his first four years in the NFL with the Los Angeles Chargers, playing all 16 regular-season games each year.
Last season, Watt scored his first career touchdown in Week 14 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He should provide consistency to the fullback position.
Reserves: Jaylen Samuels (Running Back), Benny Snell Jr. (Running Back)
It could be an even split at running back reserve with Samuels and Snell Jr. both returning after seeing significant time in 2019.
Snell Jr. had 426 yards and two scores, while Samuels had 66 carries for 175 yards and one touchdown.
Snell Jr. stands at 5’10” 224-lbs. and Samuels 6’0” 225-lbs.
This position battle should be watched closely throughout training camp, but Snell Jr. might’ve done just enough in his rookie season to jump over Samuels on the depth chart.
Battling for a Spot: Anthony McFarland (Running Back), Kerrith Whyte Jr. (Running Back) and Trey Edmunds (Running Back)
The Steelers could keep just three guys at running back, but we’ll likely see them hold onto a fourth, plus Watt at fullback.
McFarland was drafted 124th overall in the 2020 draft and could make his impact immediately. The former Maryland Terrapin had 1,648 yards in just two seasons. He added 12 touchdowns. The dynamic back can also bump out for a pass as he collected 24 catches for 199 yards in college.
The dual-threat running back could push through camp and find himself on the 53-man roster after signing his entry-level contract July 21.
With McFarland in the mix, Whyte Jr. and Edmunds will likely fall to the outside looking in at the end of camp.
In 2019, Whyte Jr. played in six games and collected 122 yards. Edmunds saw time in 11 games following the injury of Conner but had just 92 yards. Whether one of these two make the roster will be dependent on the camp performance of McFarland.
Without pre-season games, this is another position that could pose problems to coach Mike Tomlin and his staff when evaluating the running back talent for 2020.
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