The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How big of a role will Benny Snell have while Jaylen Samuels is sidelined?
It can be debated just how significant is the loss of Jaylen Samuels, the second-year, second-string running back who is value for his ability to contribute in the passing game. He averaged about 26 yards per game through the first five weeks and scored one touchdown.
Mike Tomlin said of Samuels and his usage that they took the ‘if you have red paint, you paint your barn red’ approach. In other words, whatever skills he offered, they chose to utilize. He is currently not available, but Benny Snell is, and he has a different set of skills, to be utilized in different ways.
The Steelers have already dabbled with using Snell as a situational short-yardage back, in which category he did meet with some success, but what he has been asked to do is very limited. He has just six touches on the year for 30 yards, 23 of which came on his first touch.
He is only averaging roughly two snaps per game on offense, but about eight times that number on special teams. Samuels was seeing about 20 snaps per game, so there is some meat on the bone for Snell to get on the field over the course of the next few games.
That is if the Steelers want him to be out there. In the past, they have used four-receiver sets to go without a running back, particularly last season when James Conner was thrust into a starting role with not much behind him.