For as long as Mike Tomlin has been around, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not been a team that has bought into the trend of specializing at the running back position. They have not had a designated goal line or short-yardage runner, nor ever much of a third-down back, with perhaps the exception of Mewelde Moore early in his tenure due to injury. Anything else has been a short-lived experiment at best.
Every back on the roster is at some point going to be asked to do everything. That has been true of almost everybody, shy of Dri Archer, and maybe Chris Rainey as well. But from Jonathan Dwyer to Rashard Mendenhall to John Clay, Isaac Redman, and yes, even Joshua Harris, it has always been expected that every running back can run, both inside and outside, as well as catch the football and pass protect as well.
That’s what rookie fourth-round pick Benny Snell is looking to do as soon as possible, for one simple reason. “I want to see the field as soon as possible”, he told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. And he knows there’s no better way of accomplishing that than by being able to do it all.
Snell enters a young running back room consisting, foremost, of third-year James Conner and second-year Jaylen Samuels. Though both are young, both of them are ahead of him, and both have been asked to show that they can do everything.
Snell didn’t work a lot in the passing game at Kentucky, because he was their offense with the ground game. They never had much at the quarterback position, so he had to run the ball, and defenses knew that. He did it well, and that’s one of the main reasons the Steelers went and got him in the middle of the draft, but now that he’s here, he needs to do more than he ever has.
“I can block, run, catch”, Adamski quoted him as saying. “Whatever they say, I’ll be happy to do”. That’s easy to believe, but it’s one thing to do it and another to be proficient at it. Though James Conner made major strides in the passing game from year one to year two last year, he still had some significant blemishes.
It’s a process, which is something that Snell must be aware of, and hopefully practice patience with. I realize that he wants to get on the field as soon as possible, but with two players that they already like and are working on getting on the field, he may have to play the waiting game a bit.
Of course, what he does over the course of the next few months will go a long way toward determining how much he might have to wait. If he really looks the part, he will get on the field some.