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Steelers Don’t Activate Explosive Running Back from IR



Steelers Anthony McFarland
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Anthony McFarland against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 10, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers

The Steelers did not activate running back Anthony McFarland Jr. from injured reserve on Thursday, meaning that for the third straight week, he will remain on injured reserve. McFarland has stated before that he is ready to return but that he has to wait for the green light from the coaching staff. It appears the team will see a more extended look at Godwin Igwebuike and what he can do before activating McFarland to replace Igwebuike.

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 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.

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. Regardless, the Steelers will get to see more from Igwebuike. It seems likely that running back Godwin Igwebuike will be the kickoff returner this week after he was against the Rams and Jaguars. Pittsburgh signed him off the Falcons practice squad and might want to see what they have before letting him go. Pittsburgh made no moves on Saturday, meaning there were no injured reserve activations or practice squad elevations, so they will play with the guys they have on the active roster.

McFarland has until November 6th to be activated from injured reserve. If he is not activated by the end of his 21-day window, he will be out for the season.