The Steelers have a new starting kick returner, but it won’t require some drastic change on the football field. Running back Godwin Igwebuike was officially named the team’s starting kick returner on the depth chart this week before their game against the Indianapolis Colts. Igwebuike has been returning the team’s kicks over the last few weeks, but this is the first time they have made it official.
That change occurred when the Steelers went on the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals. Since that time, Igwebuike has been the team’s kick returner over the last three games. He has seven returns for 161 yards, an average of 23 yards per return this season. Igwebuike has averaged 25.3 yards per return as an NFL kick returner in his career.
This is another disappointing year in his career for McFarland after having a strong training camp. The common denominator? He can’t stay healthy. McFarland has missed over half the season with a knee injury that occurred after the Steelers’ loss to the 49ers, and since that point, has struggled to keep the momentum he had in the preseason going into the regular season.
Igwebuke, 29, is a Pickerington, Ohio native. He has bounced around the NFL and the Steelers are his eighth team since going undrafted out of Northwestern in 2018. The Steelers signed him off the Falcons practice squad earlier this season following McFarland’s injury.
The 6-foot, 212-pound Igwebuke was a three-year starter at safety for the Wildcats, and was still playing that position when he joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a UDFA in 2018.
Igwebuike played one game at safety with Tampa before being claimed on waivers by the San Francisco 49ers later that season. Igwebuike played five games in San Francisco. All of his contributions in his rookie season came on special teams, and he recorded two tackles.
San Fransico cut him in the 2019 offseason, and he was claimed off waivers by the Philadelphia Eagles in April. The Eagles dropped him in August and he was claimed by the Jets, who cut him four weeks later.
After spinning through four NFL teams in one season and one offseason, Igwebuike signed up for the XFL, and was drafted by the Seattle Dragons. He played in five games with Seattle in the spring of 2020 and was the team’s starting safety, recording 18 tackles and an interception before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the league down.
In 2021, he signed with the Detroit Lions, who converted him to a running back right before the beginning of the season. He played 17 games with the Lions that year, rushing 18 times for 188 yards. He scored a 42-yard touchdown at Acrisure Stadium against the Steelers. He also had seven catches for 60 yards.
He was cut by the Lions after training camp in 2022 and caught on with the Seattle Seahawks. He played in five games for Seattle, rushing three times for four yards and catching one pass for seven yards.