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Kalen Ballage

Pittsburgh Steelers
Running Back #33
Pittsburgh Steelers
Running Back #33
Photo: Icon Sportswire

Kalen Ballage News

No offensive snaps

Ballage logged four snaps on special teams during Sunday's 23-16 win over the Bills.

Analysis: Ballage didn't see a single snap on offense. Rookie running back Najee Harris carried the load Sunday, playing on all 58 of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps. Ballage is currently third on the depth chart, and Harris' three-down skill set will make it hard for the veteran to see much playing time on offense. The Steelers will host the Raiders in Week 2.

Sep 15, 2021 4:54 AM EST

Pair of carries

Ballage carried the ball two times for eight yards in Friday's preseason game against Carolina.

Analysis: Ballage worked in a third-down role in the team's first offensive drive, though he was unable to convert his lone target into a catch. He drew one carry on the following drive and was held off the stat sheet thereafter until the fourth quarter. Ballage battled a lower body issue throughout the middle of training camp but has been healthier than Benny Snell overall. That could clear a path for Ballage to make the roster, though the Steelers' depth roles at the position remain unclear.

Aug 27, 2021 8:52 PM EST

Productive in exhibition win

Ballage recorded seven carries for 30 yards and hauled in both of his targets for 17 yards in Saturday's 26-20 preseason win over the Lions.

Analysis: Ballage played just 15 snaps in Saturday's win, but he saw plenty of work after he was held out of the Steelers' second preseason game due to a lower-body injury. The 25-year-old led the team's running backs in rushing yards, and his 11-yard rush in the third quarter was Pittsburgh's longest of the game. Ballage has made a strong case for a 53-man roster spot ahead of the regular season as he competes for a backup role behind starter Najee Harris.

Aug 22, 2021 10:41 AM EST

Back at practice

Ballage (lower body) returned to practice Tuesday, Dale Lolley of reports.

Analysis: Ballage sustained a lower-body injury in the Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys and didn't take the field in Thursday's exhibition game against Philadelphia. However, he took carries ahead of Jaylen Samuels in Tuesday's practice and will likely suit up for Saturday's preseason matchup against the Lions.

Aug 18, 2021 7:34 AM EST

Injury considered minor

Ballage (lower body) isn't believed to be dealing with a significant injury, Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Analysis: Ballage has missed back-to-back practices after he left Thursday's Hall of Fame Game against the Cowboys with a lower-body injury. While the exact nature of the issue isn't yet known, coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that the running back likely isn't facing a long-term absence. The 25-year-old's status for Thursday's preseason game against the Eagles will likely be determined based on whether he can return to practice in the coming days, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him limited or held out against Philadelphia as a precautionary measure.

Aug 8, 2021 7:23 PM EST

Dealing with lower body injury

Ballage suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday's Hall of Fame Game against Dallas, Brooke Pryor of reports.

Analysis: It's not immediately clear how Ballage suffered the injury, or how serious the knock may be. Prior to the issue, he received five carries and gained 19 yards -- highlighted by a five-yard touchdown. Ballage is battling to make Pittsburgh's roster, competing for a depth role with Jaylen Samuels and Tony Brooks-James and any missed time would hurt his chances of making the team.

Aug 5, 2021 8:49 PM EST

Gets more competition for touches

Ballage will have to compete for touches this year after the Steelers selected Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Ballage signed a one-year contract with the Steelers at the end of March, and Pittsburgh strengthened its running game by selecting the first running back in the draft. Coach Mike Tomlin called Harris a "three-down back" after the team selected him Thursday, signaling that Ballage should have to compete with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland for touches in a secondary role during his first year with the Steelers. Ballage averaged 3.3 yards on 91 carries with the Chargers and Jets last season and could have to compete for a spot on the Week 1 roster during training camp and the preseason.

Apr 30, 2021 11:05 AM EST

Headed to Pittsburgh

Ballage is signing a one-year contract with the Steelers.

Analysis: Few teams, if any, have a weaker depth chart at running back, though Dale Lolley of expects the Steelers to find their starter in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ballage likely will need to compete for a roster spot, as he's averaged only 3.1 yards on 201 carries and 5.5 yards on 52 receptions in the NFL. He'll be up against Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds, plus whatever rookie(s) the Steelers add.

Mar 30, 2021 8:54 AM EST

Emerges as capable backup

Ballage carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards and a touchdown in the win Sunday over the Chiefs. He finished his season 402 total yards and three touchdowns across two different teams.

Analysis: Ballage put together an uneventful three-game stint with the Jets before joining the Chargers midway through the season. From a statistical standpoint, the ensuing eight games were easily the best juncture of Ballage's three-year career to date as the 25-year-old touched the ball 108 times including four different games with at least 13-plus carries mainly in the absence of Austin Ekeler (quad). While he piled together career-highs in rushing yards (290) and receiving yards (99), he was hardly efficient with his opportunities, finishing the season with a paltry 3.3 yards-per-carry average. It'll be interesting to see how the Chargers manage their depth chart at running back moving forward with head coach Anthony Lynn now out of the picture. The offense had been almost dependent on a bruising running back capable of running between the tackles as a fulcrum of sorts to work alongside Ekeler during Lynn's tenure, but a more imaginative coach could choose to make Ekeler the truly dominant option out of the backfield thus forcing the backups to remain largely out of the picture. While Ballage's counting stats likely will make him a front runner for whatever the backup RB job looks like in 2021, Justin Jackson, 2020 fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley and possibly more names could all contend for that role entering next season.

Jan 7, 2021 8:44 AM EST

Minimal factor in win

Ballage carried the ball four times for 14 yards and also caught two passes for 12 yards in Sunday's 19-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday.

Analysis: Ballage saw just 16 offensive snaps, the lowest total during his brief Chargers tenure to date, but he still managed to tally 26 total yards, a three-week high. The 25-year-old will have one more week to make his case as the team's optimal backup option for 2021 behind stalwart Austin Ekeler.

Dec 29, 2020 2:03 PM EST

Scores TD but not much else

Ballage carried the ball eight times for 11 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's 30-27 win over the Raiders.

Analysis: The Chargers entire rushing attack was largely inefficient, but Ballage's 1.4 yards-per-carry was obviously the worst. The castaway running back has seen around 20-30 offensive snaps each game since the return of Austin Ekeler, meaning his fantasy value almost strictly is dependent on the health status of Ekeler.

Dec 18, 2020 8:29 AM EST

Relegated to afterthought

Ballage carried the ball seven times for 14 yards and caught just one of his two targets for six yards in Sunday's 20-17 win over the Falcons.

Analysis: It'll be important to monitor the status of Austin Ekeler (quad) who was estimated as non-participant in Monday's practice leading into the Thursday night matchup against the Raiders. With Ekeler healthy, Ballage has totaled just 14 carries and six targets over the last two games after emerging as the team's workhorse in previous weeks.

Dec 15, 2020 10:17 AM EST

Totals 39 yards in return

Ballage (ankle) carried the ball seven times for 34 yards and also caught three of his four targets for five yards in Sunday's 45-0 loss to the Patriots.

Analysis: It's hard to really read much into Ballage's usage given how quickly the Chargers trailed in this contest. The 24-year-old saw one fewer carry than stalwart Austin Ekeler, but the difference in targets (nine to four) should be expected given the dramatic difference in the score. Seeing 38 percent of the offensive snaps is notable considering Joshua Kelley registering just 23 percent of the offensive snaps in Ekeler's return from injury last week, so we can at least rule out the possibility Ballage could get phased out of the offense entirely. By default, expect a better performance from Ballage and company next week against the Falcons.

Dec 7, 2020 10:33 AM EST

Suits up Sunday

Ballage (ankle) is listed as active for Sunday's game against the Patriots.

Analysis: Ballage is back in the Chargers' backfield mix after sitting out the team's Week 12 loss to the Bills. However, with Austin Ekeler having reclaimed his role as the team's lead runner, Ballage's fantasy upside has dipped following a three-game run (Weeks 9 through 11) in which he was featured by the team, while Ekeler was sidelined.

Dec 6, 2020 12:02 PM EST

Likely playing Sunday

Ballage (ankle), who is listed as questionable, is expected to play Sunday against the Patriots, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Analysis: The 24-year-old received the questionable tag despite being able to practice with no limitations Friday, so it's not a major surprise he'll be suiting up versus New England. Ballage was handling the lead role in the Chargers' backfield before sitting out Week 12, but Austin Ekeler made his return from injured reserve and picked up 25 touches after the six-game absence. Ballage likely will operate as the team's secondary tailback while Ekeler continues to handle the majority of the work.

Dec 5, 2020 9:47 PM EST

Questionable despite full practice

Ballage (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Patriots.

Analysis: Ballage upgraded to full participation Friday after a pair of limited sessions, so he's more likely than not to be out there on game day. Even if he suits up, Ballage's role is likely to be limited with spark plug Austin Ekeler back in the fold for the Chargers. Ekeler handled 25 touches with Ballage unavailable last week and should continue to see the majority of work regardless of Ballage's status.

Dec 4, 2020 1:58 PM EST

Limited again Thursday

Ballage (ankle) remained limited at practice Thursday, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Back-to-back limited practice sessions give Ballage a chance to return to action Sunday against the Patriots, but with Austin Ekeler now back in the mix and having reclaimed his role as the Chargers' top RB, Ballage's fantasy stock has taken a hit since he last suited up and logged 16 carries in Week 11.

Dec 3, 2020 3:06 PM EST

Limited in Wednesday's practice

Ballage (ankle) was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Ballage was forced to miss last Sunday's contest against the Bills due to an ankle injury, which paved the way for Austin Ekeler to handle a bell-cow role in his first game back from injury. Having also been limited in practice last week, Ballage can't yet be considered a lock to return against the Patriots in Week 13, but even if he does manage to get healthy it looks like he'll be relegated to a backup role. Of course, the Chargers may not intend to give Ekeler 25 touches on a weekly basis, so it's conceivable that Ballage handles a modest workload when he's ready to work as the No. 2 option.

Dec 2, 2020 3:14 PM EST

Not fit to play Week 12

Ballage (ankle/calf) is inactive for Sunday's game against the Bills.

Analysis: After his two injuries limited him in practice all week, Ballage was deemed a game-time call heading into Sunday. He ultimately wasn't able to convince the Los Angeles coaching and training staffs that he could play through the injuries, resulting in him being ruled out of the contest. Fortunately for the Chargers, they'll be getting top running back Austin Ekeler (hamstring) back from a two-month absence Sunday, so Ballage looks like he'll be headed for a reserve role if he's able to get healthy in time for a Week 13 matchup with the Patriots.

Nov 29, 2020 8:39 AM EST

Viewed as game-time call

Ballage (ankle/calf), who is listed as questionable for Sunday's contest against the Bills, is being treated as a game-time decision, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Analysis: Adam Schefter of ESPN previously relayed Saturday that Ballage wasn't expected to play, but Rapoport's report paints the 24-year-old as more of a 50-50 call for the Week 12 contest. Even if he gains clearance prior to the 1 p.m. ET kickoff, Ballage looks set to fall into more of a change-of-pace role after handling 21 touches per game over the Chargers' last three contests. Los Angeles will return No. 1 back Austin Ekeler (hamstring) from an eight-week absence Sunday, and while he may not take on a true bell-cow role in his first game since Week 4, he's expected to pace the backfield in snaps and touches.

Nov 29, 2020 5:32 AM EST

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