In case you haven’t noticed, new Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell really likes football. He likes to play football. He likes the ball on fourth and goal. He likes to practice football. He likes to bond with his teammates. He just embraces everything about it, so even in rookie minicamp, he’s like a kid in a candy store right now.
While he told reporters yesterday that he hasn’t gotten the chance to meet a lot of the veteran players yet, as OTAs have obviously not yet gotten underway, there is one guy in particular that he is looking forward to getting to know in person, and that is the man he may be backing up in the near future.
“James Conner is another guy”, when he was discussing the Steelers’ roster. “He’s amazing. I can’t wait to meet him in person and get to learn from him”.
Conner was a start player at Pitt during his collegiate career, which was marked by a year off as he battled cancer. He came back for one final season before coming out in the draft, where he was selected in the third round in 2017 by the Steelers.
While he spent his rookie season behind Le’Veon Bell, the former All-Pro’s no-show in 2018 opened the door for Conner to start during his second year in the league, and he responded by making the Pro Bowl, rushing for nearly 1000 yards and coming close to 1500 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games played. His 13 total touchdowns were more than Bell ever had in a season.
Snell is more vocal than Conner, but they both seem to play with the same sort of passion for the game, the same sort of determination, with a constant sense of needing to prove oneself. They run hard, they run repeatedly, and they are willing to do anything that is asked of them.
It’s easy to have a good feeling about Snell’s ability to fit not just into the offense but into the locker room as a whole, not even just the running back room, which now includes Conner, Snell, and second-year Jaylen Samuels, who also had a reasonably productive rookie season in 2018.
It seemed as though a lot of people were less than thrilled about drafting a running back as early as they did—the fourth round—given that they already have a starter and potentially his backup as well, but if Snell really is the player they felt that they were drafting, the Steelers have the opportunity to have a really strong backfield going forward.
And one that is filled with a group of players who are both confident in their abilities and yet humble enough to know the work they have to put in to succeed, and the passion that is required to really perform at the highest level. In interviews, Snell is a natural. He’ll have to prove it on an NFL field first, of course.