The Steelers nailed their first two picks of the 2020 NFL Draft, but they’d like a mulligan on their fourth-round selection.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers front office did an excellent job finding talent in Rounds 2 and 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft. Round 4 wasn’t so kind for Pittsburgh. It’s safe to say Tomlin and company would like to have the pick used to land Maryland running back Anthony McFarland back.
The Steelers hoped drafting McFarland a season ago would help soften the potential departure of James Conner via free agency. Nothing he showed during his rookie season should make Pittsburgh officials feel comfortable regarding that plan.
McFarland managed to play in 11 games but was pretty anonymous at the running back position. No one will get overly excited about a rusher who only manages to produce 113 yards on 33 carries. There’s a chance he takes a meaningful step forward in his sophomore campaign, but the league is filled with running backs drafted after Round 4 who made much larger impacts in their inaugural professional seasons.
The fact that McFarland failed to knock Benny Snell out of his position as Conner’s backup should be a real concern for Steelers fans. Snell was largely inefficient whenever he was counted on to be the team’s top rusher. There’s no reason Tomlin and the coaching staff wouldn’t have given McFarland a chance to supplant him given Snell’s inability to average even four yards per carry last year.
Perhaps the biggest indictment on McFarland’s future with the franchise is the strong rumor that the Steelers are considering spending a first round pick on a running back in this year’s draft. If Pittsburgh makes the choice to bring in someone like Travis Etienne or Najee Harris it will leave McFarland languishing as the team’s No. 3 back. That’s a bad outcome for a fourth round pick at one of the NFL’s least valued positions.
McFarland still has a chance to carve out a long-term future in Pittsburgh, but he needs to starting running heads in the preseason to secure his place on the roster. Smart teams don’t spend fourth rounders on No. 3 running backs. That makes McFarland the worst pick of the Steelers’ 200 draft class.