Kalen Ballage

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

Kalen Ballage News

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 DKPittsburghSports.com 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


Trending down for Sunday

Ballage (ankle) isn't expected to play Sunday against the Bills, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports.

Analysis: The 24-year-old is officially considered questionable, but his status for Sunday's contest is apparently in doubt. Ballage has dominated the backfield work the past three games with 49 carries for 181 yards and 14 receptions for 76 yards, but his outlook for Week 12 is severely diminished due to the ankle injury and the return of Austin Ekeler (hamstring) from injured reserve. Ekeler was activated Saturday and should reclaim the lead role in the backfield, but the team may not immediately give him a full workload since he hasn't seen game action since Week 4. If Ballage is unavailable, Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope are the remaining backfield options for the Chargers.

Nov 28, 2020 9:06 PM EST


Status in question for Week 12

Ballage (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Buffalo.

Analysis: Earlier this week, the Chargers opened Austin Ekeler's (hamstring) 21-day window to return from IR. They'll have to make a decision on Ekeler by Saturday afternoon, but the current starting running back, Ballage, is entering the weekend with a cloud hanging over his head. Assuming he suits up, Ballage may have to contend with Ekeler for reps, with Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope also potentially mixing into L.A.'s backfield.

Nov 27, 2020 11:28 AM EST


Remains limited Thursday

Ballage (ankle/calf) was limited at practice Thursday.

Analysis: That was also the case Wednesday, which sets the stage for Friday's final injury report of the week to clarify whether Ballage ends up listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Bills, or minus a Week 12 injury designation.

Nov 26, 2020 1:33 PM EST


On Week 12 injury report

Ballage (ankle/calf) was limited at practice Wednesday, Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Analysis: Ballage's status for Sunday's game against the Bills must now be monitored, but on the plus side for the Chargers, Austin Ekeler (hamstring) has been designated to return from IR after returning to practice Wednesday. Once Ekeler is activated to the active roster, Ballage's fantasy value will take a hit, but that's not a lock to occur this week. In any case, if Ballage ends up unavailable or limited this weekend, added backfield opportunities could be available for Joshua Kelley and Troymaine Pope.

Nov 25, 2020 3:04 PM EST


Produces 71 scrimmage yards

Ballage carried 16 times for 44 yards and caught seven of nine targets for 27 yards during Sunday's 34-28 win over the Jets.

Analysis: Despite his team leading for much of the day and having plenty of success in the passing game, Ballage averaged just 2.8 yards per carry. He finished second on the team in targets and receptions but did little with his touches in that phase of the game as well. Although the results were lackluster, Ballage how has at least 70 scrimmage yards in all three of his games with the Chargers and will be the team's main runner for as long as Austin Ekeler (hamstring/knee) is sidelined. The latter seemingly has a chance to return next Sunday against the Bills, but it remains to be seen how the touches are distributed if he does play.

Nov 22, 2020 5:31 PM EST


Officially named top RB

Coach Anthony Lynn said Monday that Ballage will be the Chargers' "primary back" moving forward, Daniel Popper of The Athletic reports.

Analysis: Lynn also said that he wants to scheme Ballage "more looks," though the third-year pro is coming off a loss to the Dolphins in which he handled 23 touches and surpassed 100 scrimmage yards. The 231-pound bruiser's grip on the No. 1 gig will likely only last as long as Austin Ekeler (hamstring) remains on IR, but he'll at least draw one more start against another of his former teams during Sunday's matchup against the Jets. It's also possible that Ballage could remain active in a complementary role whenever Ekeler does return to the field.

Nov 18, 2020 2:17 PM EST


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