The Pittsburgh Steelers ran the ball just about as infrequently as anybody in the NFL last season, which shouldn’t be a great surprise. When your All-Pro starting running back doesn’t show up, and you have an All-Pro wide receiver, as well as a future Hall of Fame quarterback, you’re probably going to be putting the ball in the air a lot anyway.
But while Ben Roethlisberger led the league with 675 pass attempts in 2018, there are those who wonder—perhaps purposefully, out of hope—that the offense will strike a more neutral balance between the passing game and the running game, even if it approaches a 60-40 ratio. The Steelers threw the ball about two thirds of the time last year.
Now that James Conner is established as the lead back, and not just the guy who had to step in when Le’Veon Bell went AWOL, Pittsburgh is obviously heading into this next season with a much better picture of what they might be working with.
That includes the emergence of second-year Jaylen Samuels, who came on strong in the final month of the season, and rookie fourth-round pick Benny Snell, Jr., who drew positive reviews so far for his work in the spring, and certainly for his demeanor as well.
The presence of these two young backs has had many wondering whether or not the Steelers would feature more of a platoon at the position rather than a workhorse approach, in which they used Conner last season, when healthy.
When the third-year running back appeared on Pro Football Talk Live, recently, Mike Florio actually asked him about it. Specifically, he asked about what his preference would be, if he could be ‘the guy’ now, but perhaps have a shorter career, or share the workload and maybe play longer.
“Yeah, I definitely see some benefits from having multiple talented guys”, Conner allowed. “Those guys are talented, so there’s no reason [for them not to play]. They can make plays. Obviously when it’s late and the game’s on the line, I want to be the guy and make plays for us, but they’re more than capable”.
It does sound as though he would like to see a little of both. He wants to get the important carries, like the buzzer-beater shots on the basketball court, but in between those big moments, he also wants to see his brothers get their work in.
“Jaylen’s a great receiver, Benny’s a hard-nosed runner, great receiver as well”, he said of the younger backs now behind him as the sudden veteran of the position group. “We’re just gonna play off each other. We just want a ring. Our coaches and staff make those decisions, and they’ve been awesome so far, and they’ll continue to be. We’re excited for it, whatever’s gonna get us a ring, that’s what we’re gonna do”.