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Steelers Injury Updates

Steelers Leave Anthony McFarland on Injured Reserve



Steelers RB Anthony McFarland
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr. carries the ball against the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 18, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not activate running back and kickoff returner Anthony McFarland Jr. from the injured reserve list ahead of the team’s Week 7 game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

McFarland has been on the IR since the second week of the season, when some knee swelling prompted him to be shut down for a period of rest. He was a full participant in all three practice sessions this week, and did not have an injury status for the game, but the team did not put him back on the 53-man roster by Saturday’s transactions deadline. The team had room on the 53-man roster, after adding Diontae Johnson from the IR, placing Pat Freiermuth on IR and releasing wide receiver and kick returner Gunner Olszewski.

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. That’s the second-best average of any player with more than one kickoff return in the NFL this season, behind only Denver Broncos rookie Marvin Mims.

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.

“Ant gives us a lot of play-making abilities,” offensive coordinator Matt Canada said. “He’s getting back from injury and seeing where he’s at. But obviously, he had a nice little role in the first game and didn’t go as well as we all hoped, so some of those things were magnified as the game came down. But he adds a different dimension to our running back room.”

Without McFarland, the Steelers used  Olszewski and Desmond King to return kicks. Neither played shined in the role. Olszewski caught a kick that was going out of bounds, costing his team 30 yards of field position, and averaged 12.0 yards per return. King was not much better, taking several kicks out of the end zone, but failing to reach the 25-yard line. He averaged 22 yards on four returns. Both King and Olszewski have been released. It seems likely that running back Godwin Igwebuike will be the kickoff returner this week.

The Steelers released Godwin Igwebuike to make room on the 53-man roster for McFarland. The team also got wide receiver Diontae Johnson back from the IR ahead of the contest with the Rams, leaving just two Steelers out with injuries: defensive tackle Cam Heyward and tight end Pat Freiermuth.