Benny Snell was the first player the Pittsburgh Steelers on the third and final day of the 2019 NFL Draft. Some might say that he felt destined to be a Steeler. That’s not necessarily a line that the team has dissuaded, as they spent a lot of time discussing his selection in terms of his passion and devotion to the team. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner even said that he represents the Steelers brand.
One of the things that the Steelers value most highly is a football player who loves the game and is dedicated to it. So Snell’s decision to participate in Kentucky’s bowl game last season was a significant selling point for them that they wanted to acknowledge after the draft.
“Benny Snell is a dominant, SEC runner. Benny Snell, again, he’s got a little natural run skill to his game, where he sees things and he’s really good at the second level and finding and creating space”, General Manager Kevin Colbert said as he summarized each pick earlier this evening.
“One thing we really want to point out about Benny, in today’s college environment, a lot of these kids are skipping their bowl games as they head into their pro careers. And that’s the choices that they make”, he went on. “But when a player like Benny Snell did ends up playing for his team in his bowl game, we really like to acknowledge that and give him credit for putting his team and that win over his own priorities”.
Snell, who had a career-high 289 rushing attempts in 2018 as a junior for 1449 yards and 16 touchdowns, helped the Wildcats to a 10-3, their best record in terms of winning percentage since 1977. They took on Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and won, 27-24. Snell rushed for 144 yards on 26 carries with two touchdowns, leading all players on both teams in touches.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin talked about desiring that type of player who has that commitment to the game, using the term ‘grit’. “Benny Snell is a guy that really stands out in that regard”, he said. He called the running back “a guy that really kind of was a central figure in the culture change in terms of what went on in Kentucky, competing and winning in the SEC, and what he was able to do down there. We have a great deal of respect not only for his talents but for his body of work over the course of three years down there at Kentucky that speaks to that football or that grit element”.
The Steelers now have a running back room full of grit, as Snell joins Pro Bowler and cancer survivor James Conner at the top of the depth chart, a third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Last year’s addition, Jaylen Samuels, showed plenty of grit as a rookie as well.