By Jeremy Hritz
Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be analyzing each position on the Pittsburgh Steelers 90 man roster to look at strengths, areas for improvement, and what the complete picture means for the team. In concluding each analysis, I will offer up my current depth chart for the position, and then ultimately, I will provide my 53-man roster projection at the end of June. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this series, so please leave your comments below!
It’s All About Najee
If there is a buzz and optimism about one player heading into the 2022 season, it’s Najee Harris. Running behind an abysmal offensive line, Harris was still able to accumulate 1200 yards on 307 carries for 7 touchdowns, in addition to 74 receptions for 467 yards and 3 touchdowns. I can’t stress enough how bad the offensive line was last season, and Harris still produced at a high level. With upgrades across the line, there is no reason to believe the running back position, at least at the top, is a strength for the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into a brand new season.
|Anthony McFarland Jr.||26||RB||5-8||193||23||3||Maryland|
|Benny Snell Jr.||24||RB||5-10||224||24||4||Kentucky|
|Jaylen Warren||30||RB||5-8||215||23||R||Oklahoma State|
Najee Harris is primed for a big season, and anything under 1500 yards rushing would be a disappointment. He showed up to OTAs and minicamp rocked up and ready for the physicality of the NFL season, and there is still almost 2 months to go until training camp. Harris’ work ethic is becoming the exemplar in Pittsburgh, and it feels as if he is on the verge of an All-Pro season in 2022. The offense will undoubtedly run through Harris, but beyond him, there is skepticism and uncertainty.
Lots of Questions Behind Harris
As of now, Bennie Snell is RB#2 behind Harris, and what you see is what you get with Snell: a straight-ahead running style with the occasional ability to break off a laborious modest run that moves the chains and inspires the offense. However, Snell is of average athleticism and speed, and we more than likely have seen the peak of what he provides. Snell needs to show a greater ability to break tackles and not surrender to tacklers so easily, in addition to a speedier gear to engender some space between himself and defenders. Whether or not this can happen is debatable.
Anthony McFarland still has yet to show any validation of the promise for which he was drafted out of Maryland. While he has elite speed, it has not transferred to the football field, and when not injured, he looks awkward and unnatural on the field. McFarland needs to show comfort within the offense and fluidity at the position, on top of staying healthy to remain on the field. I would not be surprised if he is cut this training camp, as he has shown very little his first two years.
Trey Edmunds, brother of Terrell, is a practice squad back, who though has been called up at times to the 53-man roster, is serviceable, but nothing more. He more than likely will be challenged by both Mataeo Durant and Jaylen Warren, both who are undrafted rookie free agents. Durant is a one-cut, speed runner with not much physicality, while Warren is a one-cutter as well with not as much speed, but physicality to break tackles and chunk out big gainers. Both Durant and Warren will be given opportunities in camp to show they belong, and if they can produce, they may have a shot not only for the practice squad, but also for the RB#3 spot on the 53-man roster.
2022 Steelers Early Depth Chart at RB
- Najee Harris
- Bennie Snell
- Jaylen Warren
Harris is a lock, and Snell has too much experience to give up on in his 4th year. Warren has enough talent and toughness to intrigue the team to make it as a #3. Durant or McFarland could land on the practice squad.