Entering the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Wildcard game against the Bengals, Fitzgerald Toussaint totaled 81 yards in nine career NFL games. he added 118 total yards to that figure by the time the game ended, including 17 yards on two receptions on the game-winning drive, among them a key seven-yard reception on third down.
The former undrafted free agent, was thrust into the starting role suddenly for reasons well known to those who would even know who he is, but suffice it to say that a lot of people were curious about how he would look in his first game. And while not universally positive, he certainly opened people’s eyes.
As was the case last week, of course, there were some runs on which he simply could not do anything do to failures up front. One such run came on the second play of the game, on which he lost a yard after David DeCastro slipped trying to pull to his left.
It is because of runs such as those that he finished the game averaging under four yards per carry, though the fact that he had no runs in double figures also factored into that. He did have two runs of nine yards, however, including one from back near the team’s goal line, finding and hitting the hole to start the drive off with a positive play.
Two plays later, on third and two after having lost a yard, Toussaint chipped the edge rusher before bleeding out to the flat, but he took off to the middle of the field when he saw the area clear, and Ben Roethlisberger found him in stride for a catch-and-run of 27 yards.
Late in the half, as the Steelers were trying to drive for a field goal, Toussaint escorted a blitzing defensive back out of the pocket to allow Roethlisberger to hit a downfield pass. He checked his initial reads on the inside linebackers to see if they would pressure before turning to the outside. Perhaps he could have gotten through his progression sooner, but he still got there in time.
It should also be pointed out that Toussaint was able to throw a block on A.J. Hawk on Martavis Bryant’s end around to open up a hole and help create the cutback lane, which led to a 44-yard run.
Later in the third quarter, after a six-yard run, he followed it up with a five-yard gain by cutting the run back to the left on a zone run right, which enabled him to get the first down. As he has carried the ball more, he has also gradually shown more patience and vision.
As I mentioned early in the article, he also had a key reception on the game-winning drive, converting on third down while making an impressive adjustment to Roethlisberger’s outlet pass that the quarterback was hoping the back would anticipate. He did, for what may be his biggest and most impressive play to date.
Roethlisberger went right back to him on the following play for a 10-yard gain, and then tried to get the ball to him a third consecutive time only to have it batted down. The veteran quarterback has clearly begun to build a rapport with Toussaint out of the backfield, which is a very interesting and exciting thing to see.