The NFL practice squad is at once a tenuous lifeline to an NFL dream, a way point for roster bubble babies, and a proving round for future starters and even All Pros.
Fitzgerald Toussaint has been a waypoint type practice squad player while in Pittsburgh, and as he reaches Restricted Free Agency, Toussaint will learn whether that time translates into bigger and better things.
Capsule Profile of Fitzgerald Toussaint Steelers Career
The Steelers added Fitzgerald Toussaint to their practice squad in November of 2015 after the Baltimore Ravens parted with him. The Steelers activated Toussaint in late November likely to keep the Ravens from claiming him. That move proved to be schrewed, as DeAngelo Williams got injured in the 2015 season finale against Cleveland.
- That set the stage for Fitzgerald Toussaint to start the Steelers playoff games against the Bengals and Broncos.
The Steelers brought back Fitzgerald Toussaint in 2016, where he served on the active roster, but only saw spot duty despite the fact that Le’Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams rarely were healthy enough to play together.
Fitzgerald Toussaint was in the running to earn the third running backs slot in 2017 behind Bell and James Conners, but ultimately gave way to Terrell Watson. Watson however didn’t pan out as expected, and the Steelers promoted Toussaint to the active roster in late November where he saw action as a kickoff returner.
The Case for the Steelers Tendering Fitzgerald Toussaint
In three seasons, Fitzgerald Toussaint has proven to be a serviceable body to man the 3rd running back slot. And fate has forced the Steelers to turn to that slot more than once late in the season.
Many Steelers fans will never forgive, or forget, Toussaint’s fumble against the Broncos, but the fact is that the young made did quite well for what was essentially a 5th string running back starting in the playoffs. In fact, Toussaint had over 100 yards from scrimmage in the Steelers playoff win over the Bengals.
That’s the kind of depth you want to have at running back.
The Case Against the Steelers Tendering Fitzgerald Toussaint
As Fitzgerald Toussaint is a restricted free agent, the Steelers must make him a qualifying tender to retain some sort of first-refusal right and/or get compensation should someone sign him. While restricted free agent tenders are not guaranteed, even a low tender will portrayal come in at around 1.8 million dollars.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is a good number 3 running back, but committing 1.8 million dollars in salary cap dollars to a third running back is not a wise more even in the abstract, and certainly not given the Steelers tight salary cap situation.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Fitzgerald Toussaint
When James Conners got hurt and the Steelers needed to rest Le’Veon Bell, they went to the street and signed Stevan Ridley. And it was Ridley’s number that got called thereafter, and in the regular season finale against the Browns.
- A year ago, when Fitzgerald Toussaint was an exclusive rights free agent, this site took a lot of heat for citing him as a Kevin Colbert success story.
The point then wasn’t to say that Toussaint was a Franco Harris, Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker, or even Merril Hoge in the making. Far from it. He was a decent waiver wire pickup, and a serviceable 3rd running back. That was true then and it remains true today.
The Steelers can let Fitzgerald Toussaint become an unrestricted free agent and stand a good shot at bringing him back at or near the veteran minimum. He’s certainly a player worth bringing to training camp but treating him as anything else entering free agency would be folly.