During his time with the Kentucky Wildcats, it’s fair to say that they carried out a rushing offense over one focused on the passing game, with Benny Snell as their lead bulldozer, amassing over 700 carries during his three seasons of action there. That’s frankly not much less than the number of pass attempts that they had with Terry Wilson and Stephen Johnson at quarterback since 2016.
In other words, Snell doesn’t really know what it’s like to play with a star, established quarterback, but he will soon as he gets to know the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger, entering his 16th NFL season. With Snell being 21, he has spent most of his life watching Roethlisberger lead the Steelers. Now they will be teammates.
He was asked about that recently when he called in for an interview with The Fan late last week. “That’s kind of what I think about”, he said of working with Roethlisberger. “I don’t want to be like a fanboy or be too excited around him, because I’ve been watching Big Ben ever since I was a baby. And it’s crazy that I’m gonna actually be getting handoffs from him”.
Snell, the Steelers’ fourth-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft, joins a rebuilt stable of backfield personnel including James Conner and Jaylen Samuels. All three have been selection between the third and five rounds over the course of the past three seasons, and could be the three-headed monster that is their first full response to a post-Le’Veon Bell rushing option.
Their first response, more on the fly than anything else, wasn’t bad of course, considering that Conner ended up in the Pro Bowl, and accounted for 13 touchdowns in 13 games. Samuels added another three, while Stevan Ridley had one or two as well. Snell will be replacing the latter, who was not re-signed, and who likely would not have been on the team in 2018 had Bell reported.
But the reality is that the impromptu nature of that plan was a relevant factor in the play-calling and personnel choices. The Steelers had the second-fewest rushing attempts and second-fewest rushing yards in the league, with the passing game being on the flip side of those numbers.
The team even started to make extensive use of four- and five-receivers sets throughout the year (the latter beginning over the final month of the season), which was at least in part an effort to get the running back off the field. That was especially the case early in the year and while Conner was hurt.
Even with that said, however, we certainly shouldn’t expect the Steelers to run substantially more than they have in the past. At the end of the day, they still have Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster. They still have Vance McDonald and a well-rounded corps of wide receivers who are looking to carve out roles.
In other words, Snell shouldn’t expect to be over 20 carries per game as he did in his final two seasons in college. Bell did average over 20 carries per game in 2016 and 2017, but…that was Le’Veon Bell. I don’t think the Steelers are going to see that again for a while.