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Steelers Release Speedy Running Back

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UFL Steelers RB Anthony McFarland
Pittsburgh Steelers running back and kickoff returner Anthony McFarland in a game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 19, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers have released running back Anthony McFarland Jr., the team announced on Thursday. 

McFarland, 24, has played in three games this season and caught two passes for 11 yards. He also started the season as the team’s primary kickoff returner, averaging 27.3 yards per return on six kicks. 

But after a knee injury sidelined him for a significant portion of the season, McFarland was unable to win that job back from Godwin Igwebuike, a safety-turned-running back that has also been a positive contributor on coverage units. Igwebuike has averaged 25.1 yards per kickoff return.

Igwebuike is now the only backup behind co-starters Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren on the 53-man roster, and the Steelers do not currently have a running back on their practice squad.

The Steelers’ fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, McFarland has been with the club his entire career, but he has been released before. He was waived coming out of training camp in 2022, was re-signed to the practice squad, and spent that entire season on that unit before returning for 2023.

McFarland will now go through waivers, where he can be claimed by any NFL team. If he clears at 5 p.m. on Friday, he will be eligible to return to the team on the practice squad.

The Steelers will likely use the spot on the 53-man roster vacated by McFarland to shore up their defense, where they have been dealing with several injuries in the secondary.

Defensive back Elijah Riley appears to be set to make a return from the injured reserve list this week and special teams linebacker Kyron Johnson has already been elevated from the practice squad the maximum of four times. He must be promoted to the 53-man roster if the team wants him to play for a fourth straight week on Saturday.

Linebacker Myles Jack and defensive back Eric Rowe are also candidates to be elevated from the practice squad, but they have not yet been elevated this season.