The Pittsburgh Steelers activated running back Anthony McFarland Jr. from the injured reserve list on Monday, their last day to do so before he would have been required to sit out the entire 2023 season.
McFarland has been on the IR since the second week of the season when some knee swelling prompted him to be shut down for rest. He was a full participant in practice sessions the last two weeks and did not have an injury status for either of the last two Steelers games against the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, but the team did not put him back on the 53-man roster until required to on Monday.
McFarland played well in the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, especially as a kickoff returner. He returned three kicks for 91 yards in that game for a 30.3-yard average. He’s currently fourth in the NFL in kickoff return average, of players with more than one return.
McFarland also had two catches for 11 yards in the opener and seemed to have carved out a role as a pass-catching back with a solid preseason in his fourth NFL year.
The Steelers now have four running backs on their active roster, with McFarland joining Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren and Godwin Igwebuike. They have not carried four backs for most of the season, so it’s possible that one will be released in order to make more room at linebacker.
Inside linebacker Cole Holcomb was placed on IR as the corresponding move to McFarland’s promotion, but the team has just three inside linebackers on the 53-man roster at the moment and will likely need another slot this week.
Igwebuike has dressed for three games with the Steelers and returned four kickoffs for 93 yards (23.3 yards per return average). He has not played any offensive snaps.