Nicknamed 'TNT,' Steelers' running backs explosive in playoff opener

Mark Kaboly
| Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, 10:06 p.m.

It is too early in the week to determine whether Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams' injured foot will be healed enough for him to play in Sunday's AFC divisional-round game against the Denver Broncos.

A week ago, that would've been viewed as gloom and doom. But that was before Toussaint-n-Todman — TNT — exploded onto the scene.

The Steelers were forced to use the inexperienced duo of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman in Saturday's wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals and could find themselves going the same route against the Broncos.

ESPN reported that Williams on Monday traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to see noted foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson — the same specialist from whom linemen Marcus Gilbert and Maurkice Pouncey received second opinions in the past.

Williams was in the locker room Sunday without a boot and appeared to be walking well, but he did not talk to reporters. Williams has not spoken to reporters since injuring his foot in the first half of the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns.

“I truly have no clue what's going to happen this week,” Todman said. “It is probably too early to tell what's going to happen, so we will approach it the same way we did it last week.”

That's the same tact Toussaint is taking as the Steelers prepare to face the top-seeded Broncos at Sports Authority Field.

“We (will) just prepare for the task throughout the week and go out there and do it,” Toussaint said.

If Williams, who was replacing the injured Le'Veon Bell, misses a second consecutive playoff game, the Steelers have a pair of capable running backs who have big-game experience.

Before Saturday, they couldn't say that.

Toussaint rushed 17 times for 58 yards and was a big part of the passing game, catching four passes for 60 yards on eight targets against the Bengals. Todman carried 11 times for 65 yards, including a run of 25.

The two complemented each other with Toussaint being the power runner and Todman the speed back.

“I feel that we performed well together as a group and feeding off each other and pushing each other,” Todman said. “We felt good together. We meshed well.”

The Steelers believed they were in a better situation with their running game compared to last year when Bell was injured in the regular-season finale and couldn't play in the wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Steelers signed veteran Ben Tate in mid-week last year and started him in the loss to the Ravens. Tate and Josh Harris combined for 24 yards on 14 carries, and the Steelers rushed for a total of 68 yards.

On Saturday, the Steelers rushed 29 times for 167 yards.

“We said it all week, and we meant it. I know sometimes you guys think we don't, but we had a great deal of confidence in Fitz — not based on his resume, but based on what we see day-to-day,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “Regardless of his position in the group, he brings his hard hat and comes to work every day — whether he was a practice-squad runner, or once we moved him to the 53-man roster and an inactive guy that played a little bit, and now the guy who had to be the feature guy.

“His demeanor has never changed, and we find comfort in that. He did what we expected him to do (Saturday).”

The Steelers relied on Toussaint, who went into the game with 24 career carries, during a critical part of the game.

On the winning drive that led to Chris Boswell's 35-yard field goal, Toussaint caught two passes for 17 yards, was targeted another time by Ben Roethlisberger and carried once for 4 yards on the eight-play scoring drive.

Todman, who had three career starts in five years, touched the ball on 11 of his 14 snaps.

“I think they did a tremendous job going in and doing the things they did, rushing for over 100 yards combined, and contributing in the passing game as well,” Williams told the team's website. “A lot of people don't know who they are.

“I saw somebody called them TNT, and I thought that is the perfect name for them — them being dynamite. That is the way that they played.”

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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