PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin expects running back Anthony McFarland Jr. to return from the injured reserve list this week, but is not sure about what his role will be immediately upon his return.
McFarland, who suffered an MCL tear late in training camp, has been on the injured reserve list since before the start of the regular season. He returned to practice on Oct. 6 and the Steelers have until Wednesday to activate him from the injured reserve, or he must stay on it for the remainder of the season.
Tomlin said that McFarland will be activated, but much like tackle Zach Banner, his role upon activation may not necessarily be reflective of his full ability. Banner was activated before the Steelers faced the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6, but was then a gameday scratch.
“I think the week’s work will determine if there’s a role and if there is a role, what that is,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin also said that the team’s running game has not needed a significant backup to this point, with starter Najee Harris dominating the repetitions at the position, but he also acknowledged that the team has not gotten the running game going to the level that it would like to this point, and if it does, there may be more carries to go around moving forward.
Kalen Ballage and Benny Snell Jr. have served as Harris’ backups through the first seven weeks of the season. Neither have found much success, with Ballage rushing for 15 yards on six carries and Snell 21 yards on eight carries. Wide receivers Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool are the team’s second- and third- leading rushers.