(From top right to bottom right: James Conner, Benny Snell Jr., Trey Edmunds, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr., Wendell Smallwood, Kerrith Whyte Jr.)
The Steelers' running back room is filled to the top with potential and talent, who will make the 53 man roster?
There are some players that will make the team for sure like veteran RB James Conner. James has been with Pittsburgh since 2017, he had a fantastic second year in the league but got injuries at the end of the season. The one downfall to Conner is hoe injury prone he is, he's been injured every year but his rookie year. Conner has never played a full season and that is what scares the fans and the front office, it may be important to add he is on a contract year along with the rest of the 2017 class. Conner will definitely be RB1 this year and if he doesn't get injured this year he will get a new contract and show what he can do, he can't afford to miss more than three games.
Benny Snell is another player who will for sure make the roster, maybe as the #2 back. Snells' version of football is power football, something the Steelers have always had in a running back and is what they are known for. Snell was a rookie last year and didn't really get a ton of playing but he did score a touchdown and get some reps in, he might be the third down back if the Steelers go with power over speed for that position. The Steelers really like Snell and he was a steal in the 2019 draft for Pittsburgh, if he continues to improve and Conner doesn't get resigned he could be the starting RB in Pittsburgh for years to come.
Anthony McFarland Jr. is almost a for sure candidate to make the team, he is my personal favorite draft pick along with Antoine Brooks Jr., McFarland is the speed the Steelers have been missing in the backfield. The Steelers have not had a running back with this much speed since 2014 when they drafted Dri Archer, he didn't pan out. The Steelers did sign Wendell Smallwood, another back with speed to compete with McFarland but Pittsburgh does like their young guys. There are high hopes for McFarland, he might be used on special teams as a KR/PR, defiantly will be a receiving back more than a up the gut type of back, also he could possibly be the third down back if the Steelers choose to go with speed over power.
Trey Edmunds, brother of Terrell and Termaine Edmunds is a hit or miss running back. Trey, when called upon, produced for the most part last year, especially in the Colts game as you see above. Edmunds is the goal-line back in Pittsburgh, yet they didn't really run on the goal-line this past year so Trey didn't get a touchdown. Trey is more of a backup for the backup type back, don't get me wrong, I love Trey but he hasn't really had a chance to be the main backup or third down back so he has a 50/50 chance of making the team.
Wendell Smallwood is a duo threat back due to his speed and can also return, most likely the main reason why Pittsburgh brought him in. More speed entered the backfield this offseason and he may not make the team. If Smallwood doesn't make the 53 man roster he will be put on the practice squad. Kerrith Whyte Jr. was a returner last year for Pittsburgh so it will be between Whyte and Smallwood for a returner spot.
Kerrith Whyte Jr. came in mid season and was a special teams/running back. He mainly did kickoff returns and came in on long 3rd or 2nd downs. Whyte will be competing with Smallwood for a returner spot or a practice squad spot with the Steelers, whoever doesn't make it will be cut and hit free agency. Whyte didn't play much last year as he only touched the ball 25 times in 6 games, Smallwood played for Washington last year and put up 31 touches in 15 games, very similar players.
Jaylen Samuels is predicted to be cut after training camp due to the crowded RB room in Pittsburgh. Samuels can play RB,FB,WR, and TE, he also showed last year he can play a little QB. Samuels is expected to be beat out by Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland Jr., personally I like Jaylen and I think he should stay but if Pittsburgh only cut one running back then they will have 6 other RBs and you don't need that many. There is no hope of him playing fullback because of new free agent sign Derek Watt. Less active in 2019, Samuels recorded 175 yards and only one touchdown in the ruching department and 305 yards and one touchdown in the receiving department. If placed on the practice squad he will surely be scooped fairly quick from teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Bears who need depth at RB and an all purpose back who does each job well.
Final RB Depth Chart Predictions
RB1- James Conner
RB2- Benny Snell Jr.
RB3- Trey Edmunds
RB4/Returner- Anthony McFarland Jr.
Cut/Practice Squad Predictions
Practice Squad- Wendell Smallwood
Cut- Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Cut- Jaylen Samuels