Going from college to the pros can take as much of a mental adjustments for young players as it does a physical one. There is an emotional adjustment that comes into play as well. For most rookies, for example, they were starters, if not stars, on their college teams when they were drafted, but will be playing bit parts if at all in the early portions of their professional career.
Taking Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Benny Snell, their fourth-round pick back in March. He made the team as the third-string running back behind Pro Bowler James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, who had success starting three games last year.
While Samuels’ knee injury has opened a brief window for the rookie to contribute in a larger capacity, Snell was only seeing about two or three snaps per game through the first five weeks, and about a touch per game. But in spite of the fact that he was the centerpiece of his college offense, he has transitioned well to his current role, as his position coach, Eddie Faulkner, told reporters.
“Benny wants to be a great player, so he’s chomping at the bit to get out there, but he also understands that everybody has a skill set in that room, everybody brings something different to the table, and he brings something to the table”, he said earlier this week, via a video from Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“I think you saw that start to show up on Sunday night”, he went on. “He’s continued to work to gain the trust of the coaches and gain the trust of myself, and Sunday was a big step. The future is very bright for that young man. I think he’s gonna be a real good football player”.
Snell rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries against the Los Angeles Chargers, and added his first reception of his professional career, a 14-yard gain. Still, even with a lot of work in the last game, he still has two and a half times as many snaps played on special teams as he does on offense, and Faulkner also appreciates the way his back has embraced his duties in the third phase.
“It’s really encouraging, because that’s something you don’t know coming out of college for him. He was the guy at Kentucky, so you didn’t know how well or how much he was going to dive into being that special teams guy”, he observed. “But he’s taken it head on and he’s been one of the bigger contributors on the unit, so I’m super proud of that. He enjoys it. He knows that it’s a big role to play in, and he approaches it every week, just with that type of tenacity”.
Samuels is probably going to miss at least one more game, if not two, so Snell should get another opportunity to play a bit more on offense before he goes back to being the number three. But surely he is hoping, by then, to have shown the coaching staff that he deserves to have a niche role within what they are already doing.