With Jaylen Samuels on the sideline with a knee injury two weeks ago out west against the Los Angeles Chargers, rookie running back Benny Snell got the opportunity to receive the longest look of his career to date for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In all, the fourth-round pick recorded 18 touches, among them 17 carries, compiling 89 yards from scrimmage, with 75 coming on the ground, with a long run of 20 yards. He got a fair portion of that work toward the end of the game, at which point James Conner was also banged up.
But Conner has been up and running for a while, and while he is still listed as questionable to play on Monday night against the Miami Dolphins, the second-year Samuels was able to participate fully in practice all week, which almost always indicates a player returning to the field.
Asked about his status and how his role will change going forward, Snell told Brian Batko, “honestly, that’s not for me to answer, that’s for the coaches to answer”. He likely didn’t answer and questions about who was taking the bulk of the reps and with which offensive lines in place, either.
Instead, he offered appreciate for his teammate, Samuels. “I’m very excited that Jaylen’s back”, he said of the Steelers’ number two running back. “Jaylen makes the offense very versatile with how he can catch the ball and how dynamic he is. But i feel like we’re all dynamic in our own ways”.
Especially since Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season due to an elbow injury, the running backs have played a vital role in the passing game, with the three of them combining for 40 receptions on the year. Conner has 26 himself, which leads the team, while Samuels has 13. Conner also has two touchdowns on receptions.
While Samuels’ return is sure to eat significantly into his playing time, Snell’s central focus continues to be on one thing, which is to always get better. “I really look at it as an opportunity to build off of what I showed I could do”, he said coming off of his first meaningful showing against the Chargers.
Like many players, while he allowed that he “did a pretty decent job” offensively, his focus remained on where he made mistakes, lamenting that he didn’t get his first touchdown in Los Angeles. If his playing time trickles back down to where it was, unless he gets used as a goal-line, back, he could be waiting a while longer with Conner and Samuels shouldering the load.