McFarland should serve in a backup role this season after the Steelers selected Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports.
Analysis: McFarland will get to work under offensive coordinator Matt Canada in 2021, who served in the same position at The University of Maryland when the running back ran for 1,034 yards in 2018. However, James Conner left for the Cardinals in free agency during the offseason, and the Steelers decided to replace him by taking the first running back off the board in the first round Thursday. Coach Mike Tomlin described Harris as a "three-down back" after the Steelers selected him, signaling that McFarland should have to compete for carries with Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage in a secondary role in 2021.
Apr 30, 2021 10:44 AM EST
McFarland could benefit from working with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who held the same position at The University of Maryland when the running back ran for 1,034 yards in 2018, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports.
Analysis: McFarland and Canada both experienced their first NFL season in 2020, with the former seldom used as a backup running back, while the latter served as QBs coach. Canada replaces Randy Fichtner, who was criticized for ranking 31st, 29th and 32nd in rushing yards during his three-year tenure as offensive coordinator. With James Conner scheduled for free agency and none of McFarland, Benny Snell or Jaylen Samuels making a strong impression this past season, it's hard to get a read on the future of the Pittsburgh backfield. The murky situation isn't necessarily a bad thing for McFarland, a soon-to-be 22-year-old with 4.44 speed and a decent investment (2020 fourth-round pick).
Jan 26, 2021 7:53 AM EST
McFarland (coach's decision) is inactive for Sunday's wild-card matchup against the Browns, Teresa Varley of the Steelers' official site reports.
Analysis: The rookie fourth-round pick will be a healthy scratch as the Steelers head into postseason action. Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels will serve as reserve options behind top running back James Conner.
Jan 10, 2021 4:05 PM EST
McFarland totaled five carries for 17 yards while failing to haul in his lone target in Sunday's 24-22 loss to the Browns.
Analysis: McFarland saw some increased usage in Week 17 since the Steelers elected to rest some of their primary players ahead of the playoffs. The 2020 fourth-rounder didn't make much of an impact for Pittsburgh during his rookie season, logging just 33 carries for 113 yards while hauling in six of his 10 targets for 54 yards. McFarland could compete for an increased role in 2021 if James Conner doesn't re-sign with the team, but he should continue to see minimal usage offensively during the Steelers' playoff run.
Jan 4, 2021 11:12 AM EST
McFarland (illness) is not listed on Thursday's injury report, Teresa Varley of the team's official site reports.
Analysis: The rookie first-round pick sat out Week 16's win over the Colts due to an ailment, but it looks like he's already returned to full health. With the Steelers planning to sit a number of starters against the Browns on Sunday, McFarland could end up seeing increased playing time.
Dec 31, 2020 2:58 PM EST
McFarland (illness) is inactive for Sunday's game versus the Colts, Teresa Varley of the Steelers' official site reports.
Analysis: McFarland was added to the injury report Friday as a non-participant due to the illness, and he won't be available for Sunday's matchup with Indianapolis. The 21-year-old was unlikely to see significant playing time even if available since James Conner, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels are healthy.
Dec 27, 2020 9:08 AM EST
McFarland is questionable for Sunday's game versus Indianapolis due to an illness, Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: The 23-year-old was added to the injury report Friday as a non-participant due to the illness, putting his status for Week 16 in question. McFarland is unable to have a significant role even if available since James Conner, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels are all healthy.
Dec 25, 2020 2:43 PM EST
McFarland recorded one carry for five yards while bringing in his lone target for nine yards in Monday's 24-17 loss to the Bengals.
Analysis: McFarland was expected to play a modest role for Pittsburgh on Monday after James Conner (quadriceps) was ruled out for the contest, but he was only on the field for seven offensive snaps in the loss. The rookie was a healthy scratch for the Steelers in Week 14, and he's unlikely to see a major uptick in usage over the final few weeks of the season.
Dec 22, 2020 10:28 AM EST
McFarland should see some playing time in Monday's game against the Bengals because James Conner (quad) has been ruled out.
Analysis: McFarland was a healthy scratch last week against the Bills, when Conner, Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels were all healthy. Conner also missed Weeks 12-13, and in that stretch, McFarland logged 25 snaps, seven carries and a reception, totaling 29 yards from scrimmage. Snell is slated to lead the Steelers' backfield once again; McFarland will compete with Samuels for the leftover reps.
Dec 21, 2020 1:14 PM EST
McFarland (coach's decision) is listed as inactive Sunday in Buffalo, Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: The absence will mark McFarland's fourth of the season, as the Steelers will ride James Conner in his first action since two games missed due to residing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Any reps that don't go to Conner will trickle down to Benny Snell and Jaylen Samuels.
Dec 13, 2020 4:01 PM EST
McFarland carried four times for 15 yards and failed to haul in his lone target in Monday's 23-17 loss to Washington.
Analysis: Even with James Conner (reserve/COVID-19 list) sidelined once again Monday, McFarland was unable to generate much production in the Steelers' first loss of 2020. The rookie was only on the field for 15 percent of the team's snaps, and his usage should decrease even more going forward with Conner expected back in Week 14.
Dec 8, 2020 9:49 AM EST
McFarland carried three times for nine yards and turned his lone target into a 17-yard reception Wednesday in the Steelers' 19-14 win over the Ravens.
Analysis: McFarland was on the field for 14 of the Steelers' 72 offensive snaps on the day, good for a season-high 19 percent share. That said, McFarland's usage might have been more modest than some may have anticipated, given that top back James Conner (reserve/COVID-19 list) was sidelined. With Conner out, head coach Mike Tomlin eschewed a committee approach to the backfield and instead leaned heavily on Benny Snell, who accounted for 93 total yards while playing 71 percent of the snaps. Even if Conner remains out of the lineup for the Steelers' Week 13 game versus Washington on Dec. 7, McFarland will be tough to count on for meaningful production if Snell is once again treated as a bell cow.
Dec 3, 2020 9:14 AM EST
McFarland should see an increased workload in Tuesday's game against the Ravens following news that both James Conner (COVID-19) and Jaylen Samuels (quadriceps) are ruled out, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com reports.
Analysis: Benny Snell figures to handle a bulk of the backfield reps, leaving a change-of-pace role for McFarland. Coach Mike Tomlin has been hesitant about utilizing McFarland this, as the rookie fourth-rounder hasn't played more than 10 snaps in a game. In limited action, McFarland has recorded 95 yards from scrimmage on 24 touches.
Nov 28, 2020 2:20 PM EST
McFarland recorded three carries for three yards in Sunday's 27-3 win over the Jaguars.
Analysis: McFarland was unable to suit up in Week 10 due to a non-COVID-19-related illness, but he returned to action against Jacksonville. The 2020 fourth-rounder was on the field for five offensive snaps, and he touched the ball three times in the win. McFarland has racked up 67 rushing yards on 20 carries while also hauling in four receptions for 28 yards during his rookie season.
Nov 23, 2020 11:39 AM EST
McFarland (illness) was a full participant in practice Wednesday.
Analysis: McFarland came down with a non-COVID-19 illness prior to last week's win over Cincinnati and ended up sitting out, but he has evidently required and is on track to suit up against the Jaguars on Sunday. The rookie sits third on Pittsburgh's backfield depth chart behind James Conner and Benny Snell.
Nov 18, 2020 1:05 PM EST
McFarland (illness) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Bengals, Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com reports.
Analysis: The rookie fourth-round pick missed the final two practices of the week before receiving the questionable tag, and he won't be available for Sunday's contest. McFarland has five touches for 13 yards this season, and James Conner should continue to handle the bulk of the backfield work for Pittsburgh.
Nov 15, 2020 12:11 PM EST
McFarland (illness) is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Bengals, Teresa Varley of the team's official site reports.
Analysis: McFarland has now missed back-to-back practices while dealing with an ailment, making his status for Week 10 murky. The rookie fourth-round pick has generally handled five to 10 offensive snaps per game since Pittsburgh's Week 4 bye, so he isn't on the fantasy radar in most formats regardless.
Nov 13, 2020 12:51 PM EST
McFarland (illness) was a non-participant during the Steelers' practice session Thursday, Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio reports.
Analysis: This development is damaging news to the prospects of McFarland suiting up Sunday against Cincinnati, as Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com notes that coach Mike Tomlin has a tendency to sit rookies who miss practice throughout the week. McFarland fielded five offensive touches last Sunday at Dallas, but a sudden appearance on the injury report puts the 21-year-old's status in question for Week 10.
Nov 12, 2020 3:05 PM EST
McFarland recorded three carries for seven yards while hauling in both of his targets for 15 yards in Sunday's 24-19 win over the Cowboys.
Analysis: McFarland's eight offensive snaps Sunday slightly outpaced Benny Snell's five, and the 2020 fourth-rounder recorded his highest number of touches since Week 3. McFarland recorded four touches on the Steelers' first drive of the second quarter before recording a six-yard carry in the fourth. The 21-year-old has logged double-digit snaps just twice this year and has failed to establish much of a role during his rookie season.
Nov 9, 2020 2:31 PM EST
McFarland recorded one carry for one yard in Sunday's 28-24 win over the Ravens.
Analysis: The Steelers relied heavily on the passing game Sunday, and McFarland was only on the field for one snap in the win. While he recorded a carry when he took the field, the 2020 fourth-rounder has only recorded 21 yards from scrimmage over the past four weeks.
Nov 2, 2020 11:12 AM EST
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