PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. did not practice for the second consecutive day on Friday, bringing into serious doubt whether or not he will play in the team’s Week 2 game against the Cleveland Browns on Monday night.
Typically, players who don’t practice on Fridays don’t play, but the Steelers have an extra practice this week on Saturday ahead of their Monday Night Football battle with the Browns.
McFarland’s presence on the team’s injury report on Thursday was a bit of a surprise because he was not obviously injured in the team’s season-opening loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
He said on Friday that the issue, which the Steelers have listed as a knee injury, was something that has been bothering him for a few weeks, but flared up after the game. He’s dealing with some swelling and is resting now in hopes of a quick return. McFarland’s status for this week’s game has not yet been decided.
McFarland was one of the few bright spots for the Steelers on Sunday. He averaged 30.3 yards per return on three kickoff returns, which has him second in the NFL in kick return average after one week, trailing only Ty Montgomery of the New England Patriots, who averaged 31.0 yards per return.
The Steelers have listed wide receiver Gunner Olszewski as McFarland’s backup as a kick returner. He was not dressed in the opener, but will likely be this week thanks to the injury to wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
At running back, McFarland didn’t have a big role, playing just five snaps, but he made an impact when he was on the field. McFarland caught two passes, gaining 11 yards. One of them was a crucial fourth-down conversion on the team’s lone scoring drive.
The Steelers only have three running backs on the 53-man roster. If McFarland doesn’t play, tight end Connor Heyward has worked at running back before and could fill in. The Steelers also have two options for a practice squad call-up: former Pitt and Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison, who joined the team after being in camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and ex-Detroit Lions running back Greg Bell, who was with the Steelers in camp.
Bell had 18 carries for 34 yards for the Steelers this preseason. Ollison did not have a carry for Jacksonville.
The Steelers will make their final injury designations for Monday’s game after practice on Saturday.