Undrafted running back says ‘can make impact right away’

LISTEN as Mataeo Durant discusses his shot with the Steelers
Mataeo Durant in practice
Photo credit 93.7 The Fan

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) – Historically the Steelers have done well with undrafted players--Ramon Foster, Chris Hoke, Willie Parker, James Harrison. A running back out of Duke thinks the situation is right for him to be the next to make an impact.

Given the lack of depth at the tailback position, it was a bit surprising the Steelers didn’t sign a free agent or draft a running back.  That means for a player like Mataeo Durant, it’s an attractive landing spot to start an NFL career.

“I think I have a really good opportunity to make the team,” Durant told 93.7 The Fan.  “Make an impact on special teams or playing offense and being a really good teammate.  I’m grateful to have the opportunity here.”

No doubt Najee Harris gets the majority of running back touches, but what about what’s behind him.

Benny Snell-the 2019 fourth round pick is in the final year of his rookie contract.  He has improved to make a dent on special teams, playing 67% of the kick team snaps in 2021.  The former Kentucky back has a hundred-yard game to his resume in 2020 and a 98-yard game against the Bengals in 2019.  Last year his biggest game was 22 yards on 12 carries.

Anthony McFarland, Jr-the 2020 fourth round pick has played in only 13 career games mostly due to injury.  The Maryland product managed only two games in 2021 and is a non-factor on special teams especially with the addition of Gunner Olszewski to return kicks.

Trey Edmunds-no one seems to want it more than the 27-year-old, his brother is the starting safety.  He practices hard, runs hard, can play special teams, but hasn’t been able to get more than 22 carries in his four seasons with the Steelers.

That’s Durant’s competition to be the backup.  If you are a big Pitt fan, you may know of Durant from his career at Duke.  He flew a little under the radar because the Blue Devils were mostly terrible.  Last season on a 3-9 team, Durant set the Duke single-season rushing yards mark with 1,241 and nine touchdowns.  He was second in the conference in rushing, fifth in all-purpose yards and First Team All-ACC.  The 6’1”, 195-pounder is also a great athlete, all-state in football, basketball and track in high school in South Carolina.

Durant said he had other opportunities, but felt like this shot with the Steelers was best for him.

“I feel like it was a really good place,” Durant said.  “Coach Tomlin has done a great job with the franchise over the years.  It has a lot of stability.  I feel like I can come in and make an impact right away.”

He admitted there was a lot of anxiety on the first day of rookie camp, but felt like he’s settled down.  Durant believes he’s made the adjustment and has developed a mindset that this is a game he’s played his whole life.  Don’t overcomplicate it anything more than that.

“I think I bring what they already have-a lot of toughness, people that are reliable and someone who is always accountable,” Durant said.

If he brings that, there is a good shot to make this team.

Featured Image Photo Credit: 93.7 The Fan