Kalen Ballage parlayed a mostly solid stint with the Chargers into a chance to have a role in the Steelers offense. With the Bolts in 2020, Ballage handled the rock at least 15 times in three straight games, averaging a good-for-him 3.7 yards per rush with 14 receptions. It'll probably take an injury to rookie Najee Harris for Ballage to matter in the Pittsburgh offense. Keep him off Fantasy rosters for now.
Ballage will have to compete for touches this year after the Steelers selected Najee Harris with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic reports. Ballage signed a one-year contract with the Steelers at the end of March, and Pittsburgh strengthened its running game by selecting the first running back in the draft. Coach Mike Tomlin called Harris a "three-down back" after the team selected him Thursday, signaling that Ballage should have to compete with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland for touches in a secondary role during his first year with the Steelers. Ballage averaged 3.3 yards on 91 carries with the Chargers and Jets last season and may have to compete for a spot on the Week 1 roster during training camp and the preseason.
Ballage is signing a one-year contract with the Steelers. Few teams, if any, have a weaker depth chart at running back, though Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com expects the Steelers to find their starter in the 2021 NFL Draft. Ballage likely will need to compete for a roster spot, as he's averaged only 3.1 yards on 201 carries and 5.5 yards on 52 receptions in the NFL. He'll be up against Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds, plus whatever rookie(s) the Steelers add.
Ballage carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards and a touchdown in the Chargers' Week 17 win over the Chiefs. Ballage -- who finished the 2020 season with a combined 402 yards and three TDs with a pair of teams -- put together an uneventful three-game stint with the Jets before joining the Chargers midway through the campaign. From a statistical standpoint, the ensuing eight games were easily the busiest juncture of Ballage's three-year career to date, as the 25-year-old logged 108 touches in that span, mainly in the absence of Austin Ekeler (quad). While Ballage put together career-highs in rushing yards (290) and receiving yards (99), he was hardly efficient with his opportunities, finishing the season with a paltry 3.3 yards-per-carry average. It remains to be seen how the Chargers manage their carry distribution at running back moving forward with head coach Anthony Lynn now out of the picture. The offense had been almost dependent on a bruising back capable of running between the tackles as a fulcrum of sorts to work alongside Ekeler during Lynn's tenure, but a more imaginative coach could choose to make Ekeler the truly dominant option out of the backfield, thus forcing the backups to remain largely out of the picture. While Ballage's counting stats could make him a frontrunner for whatever the team's top backup RB job looks like in 2021, Justin Jackson, 2020 fourth-round pick Joshua Kelley and possibly others could contend for that role entering next season.
Ballage carried the ball four times for 14 yards and also caught two passes for 12 yards in Sunday's 19-16 win over the Broncos on Sunday. Ballage saw just 16 offensive snaps, the lowest total to date during his brief Chargers tenure, but he still managed to tally 26 total yards, a three-week high. The 25-year-old will have one more week to make his case as the team's optimal backup option for 2021 behind stalwart Austin Ekeler.
Ballage carried eight times for 11 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's 30-27 win over the Raiders. The Chargers entire rushing attack was largely inefficient, but Ballage's 1.4 yards-per-carry stood out as dismal. The castaway running back has seen around 20-30 offensive snaps each game since the return of Austin Ekeler, making his fantasy value almost strictly dependent on the ability to get into the end zone.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/19||Las Vegas Raiders||29||22.38|
|4||10/03||@Green Bay Packers||27||20.33|
|11||11/21||@Los Angeles Chargers||14||16.75|
|16||12/26||@Kansas City Chiefs||25||19.32|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||67||210||2||17||95||0||42|