With Williams 'day to day,' Steelers turn to Toussaint, Todman

Chris Adamski
| Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, 1:21 p.m.

Just like last season, the Steelers are turning to their third-string running back while preparing to play in a Saturday night wild-card game against an AFC North opponent.

Unlike last year, they are more confident — outwardly, anyway — that they'll get positive results.

After characterizing the injured DeAngelo Williams as “day-to-day,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday said the Steelers will prepare for their 8:15 p.m. game at Cincinnati as though Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman will be their running backs. Tomlin did not hide his enthusiasm for Toussaint, a little-known, second-year pro.

“He's a talented and hard-working guy,” Tomlin said. “He displays that for us on a day-to-day basis, not only since he's been called up and active but when he was serving us in a scout-team capacity when he was on the practice squad. He brings a no-nonsense, blue-collar approach that I'm sure Steelers Nation would appreciate.”

Contrast that Tomlin's response 52 weeks ago to a similar question about Josh Harris, a similarly undrafted and unheralded third-string back who was promoted from the practice squad last November: “He was able and available.”

A Harris- and Ben Tate-led running attack managed 68 rushing yards on 19 attempts in last postseason's 30-17 wild-card loss to Baltimore — All-Pro Le'Veon Bell was injured the week before.

That defeat was part of the reason the Steelers signed Williams as an insurance policy for Bell, one that paid off after Bell was lost for the season in a loss to the Bengals on Nov. 1.

However, like Bell last season, Williams suffered an injury during the regular-season finale Sunday. Tomlin on Tuesday said, “I think technically it's not even an ankle (injury). It's a foot.”

Williams underwent an MRI on Monday and remained in a walking boot. He was being treated Tuesday.

“I don't know what his availability will be in terms of the game,” Tomlin said. “Like we do in all instances, we will let practice availability and/or participation be our guide in terms of what to expect from him. We will give him an opportunity to do that if he's capable and then have daily discussions and planning regarding that.

“But in the meanwhile, I think it's prudent for us and appropriate to build our plan around Fitz and around Todman.”

Toussaint (24 career carries) and Todman (115 career carries) were signed by the Steelers in the days before the season opener after each had been cut by other teams. Toussaint was on the practice squad all season until being promoted to the active roster Nov. 27. He leapfrogged Todman and the since-released Isaiah Pead.

Unlike a year ago when the Steelers signed Tate four days before the postseason game, this time the team is electing to stay in-house.

Toussaint, and to a lesser extent Todman, will be asked to fill Williams' role if Williams can't play. Williams had 907 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 200 carries this season.

Bell set a Steelers record for yards from scrimmage in 2014.

“We won't ask (Toussaint and Todman) to be Le'Veon. We won't ask them to be DeAngelo,” Tomlin said. “We will ask them to be themselves and be positive contributors to our efforts and to play good, winning football. I think that's a fair thing to ask, and I think both men are capable of delivering that.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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