By Jeremy Hritz
After finishing up all of the Steelers draft pick profiles, it is now time to move on to the undrafted rookie free agents. In this series, which will cover all 10 UDRFAs, I will provide an overview and analysis of each prospect so you know what to expect, and how, potentially, the player fits into the Steelers plans heading into 2022.
Mataeo Durant, RB, North Carolina
The Steelers backup running back situation is average, if we are being honest in our assessment, and if there were ever a time for a shakeup, it is this year. Sure, Bennie Snell has recorded 100-yard games, but he has average speed and tackle-breaking ability, and due to the fungibility of the position, there are better options out there. Same goes for Anthony McFarland who has yet to show any promise as to why he should remain on the roster, despite his testing prowess and 40-yard dash speed.
Enter Mataeo Durant, running back out for North Carolina, who not only possesses speed, he runs a 4.38 40, but who was also productive on a poor college team. Durant has an opportunity, if he can show that he can transfer his collegiate abilities to the NFL, to challenge Snell and McFarland for a roster spot heading into the approaching season.
Strengths of Durant
Durant has explosion, and when he decides to accelerate, he reaches top speed very quick. This skill lends itself well to outside zone runs in which he makes a cut and heads on his way. With his burst and speed, at times, this results in big runs. Durant also showcased soft hands at Duke, making significant contributions in the passing game, something that makes him versatile, which is a requirement for any player attempting to make the Steelers roster.
Areas for Growth
Durant does lack the size and girth for the position which could lead to durability issues for him in the NFL. Additionally, one of the results of his size is his inadequacies in the power running game, as he is not a ball carrier who can break tackles and push the pile. Good thing for Durant, is that the Steelers are not in need of such a skill set. Also is not the most nimble of backs and lacks the shake and bake to make defenders miss.
Outlook for Making the 2022 Steelers Roster
Beyond Najee Harris, the Steelers truly are weak at the running back position, and neither Bennie Snell nor Anthony McFarland offer much beyond average at this point in their NFL careers. As a result of this, Durant does has a shot to compete for a roster shot and to displace either Snell or McFarland, with worst case scenario being a spot on the practice squad. His burst and speed could prove to be a nice compliment to Harris’ running style, but whether or not it can translate to the professional game remains to be seen. Will be a fun UDRFA to keep an eye on in camp.