The "Next man up" philosophy has been preached by head coach Mike Tomlin for years, and it seems to have personified itself in the names of Fitzgerald Toussaint and Jordan Todman. We will take a closer look at Todman's successful plays soon, but this article focuses on Toussaint's play in the passing game.
Part of what Pittsburgh's offense has been designed to take advantage of is the use of athletic running backs to create headaches for linebackers. Notice how Toussaint throws a chip block, but still manages to set up Vincent Rey for a circle route. He takes a step to the outside which forces Rey to respect a potential flat route, leaving the middle of the field wide open for an easy completion from Ben Roethlisberger. His run after the catch is also impressive as he explodes through the secondary and maximizes low risk pass from Roethlisberger. Plays like this will catch the eyes of offensive coordinators across the league who need dependable third down running backs.
Toussaint's deception works for him again as he appears to play the part of an extra pass protector at the start of the play, but becomes an easy dump off option for Roethlisberger yet again here. He also explodes after his catch to get up the field and absolutely breaks Adam "Pacman" Jones down and makes him fall on his face without even touching Toussaint. Another example of how good Toussaint was on Sunday with the ball in his hands.
This was Toussaint's finest moment on Saturday against the Bengals; on third down of the team's final drive, he runs a wheel route after chipping a blitzer and makes a superb adjustment to the ball in mid-air. To make himself an easy target, Toussaint breaks stride to turn around and give Roethlisberger an easy out-route option to the sideline to convert the third down. Roethlisberger does not see his move however and leads him up the field, but Toussaint's reflexes allowed him to react quickly enough to turn his shoulders a second time and get under the pass for a huge completion on the game's most important drive.
Toussaint showed he can be extremely useful in the Steelers' offense when called upon. While it remains to be seen if he can prove to be a consistent option, having a solid receiving option at running back which can spell a starter like DeAngelo Williams or Le'Veon Bell makes for a role which Pittsburgh has not had on a consistent basis since Mewelde Moore. Not only did Toussaint run hard on the ground, but he proved to be a reliable option for Roethlisberger out of the backfield.
What many opponents feared in the Steelers' offense throughout this seaon was how defenses would have to be elite in their coverage of Pittsburgh's wide receivers and its running backs. If Toussaint can be this type of a weapon consistently, the chances of the Steelers' offense being able to control games again increase signficantly.