Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: RB Benny Snell
Stock Value: Up
Benny Snell, and his brand of football, are back, even if he’s not using his brand name these days. That’s after missing the past three games due to a knee injury that required some cleanup surgery. And he’s coming back just in time—having declared himself “110 percent”—just in time, as James Conner had a setback with his shoulder injury after trying to come back from it.
While both were sidelined, the running game couldn’t get anything going outside of one clear outlier 45-yard run for Trey Edmunds, which was perfectly blocked. Neither he, nor Jaylen Samuels, nor Tony Brooks-James, could muster much of anything of note on the ground, even when the line had the play properly blocked up.
While Snell is a young back, he also has a deeper history of toting the rock. He’s mostly a north and south guy, and has been trying to get back to that more, trying to force the issue less. And he has better vision and feel for emerging lanes.
The Steelers have to hope his return is going to make a difference in the running game, because if it doesn’t, they’re going to have a hard time moving the football without JuJu Smith-Schuster. James Washington and Diontae Johnson have flashed this year and have looked like they could be good complementary guys in time, but as the one-two duo? We’re definitely not there yet.
Another weakness opponents have exploited has been the poor blitz pickup and general pass protection from Samuels and Edmunds. Snell is still learning what to do here, as well, but he had already seemed to be ahead of the game.
Snell’s stock is up right now simply because he has been able to get himself back healthy and ready to return to the field. He has to earn anything more than that. He’s had basically one notable game so far in his career, rushing for 75 yards on 17 carries with a 14-yard reception in the game before he injured his knee. It’s time to build on that.