PITTSBURGH — The timing of the injury couldn’t have been worse for Steelers running back Anthony McFarland Jr.
The second-year running back out of Maryland appeared to have locked up the backup role to starter Najee Harris this summer with a strong training camp and his first preseason action after a pandemic-interrupted rookie season in 2020.
Instead, he started the season on the injured reserve list after suffering a knee injury late in the preseason. Speaking with reporters for the first time since the injury on Friday, McFarland explained that he suffered an MCL tear that was a re-aggravation of a college injury.
“I don’t really know how it occurred,” McFarland said. “Just one day, I was practicing and I felt it, I got an MRI and that’s what it was. … It was just something that I had from college, an old tear and a new tear.”
McFarland returned to practice last week and has one more week of work to go before the Steelers have to make a decision on whether or not to activate him from the injured reserve list.
“Everything’s feeling good,” McFarland said. “Running, everything feels pretty normal. There’s a little rust to knock off.”
The injury will heal, but it’s hard to replace the opportunity that McFarland lost at the start of the season. Now he’ll have to, as head coach Mike Tomlin likes to say, board a moving train, and unseat veterans Kalen Ballage and Benny Snell for a role in the offense.
“It’s tough, it’s really tough,” McFarland said. “Just because it happened before the season started. I really felt like I tried to do a lot in the offseason, not just during camp but coming into camp, coming back a better than I was my rookie year. It kinda sucked to have that happen before the season.”