The only run defense worse than the Cleveland Browns that the Pittsburgh Steelers have played, and will play, this season is that of the Cincinnati Bengals. They had one of their most successful nights rushing the ball in 2019 in their first game against the Bengals this year. Now they’re hoping to get back to that after three games of struggles since James Conner’s big game against the Miami Dolphins, in which he was injured.
Rookie Benny Snell, who in the game prior to that had rushed for 75 yards on 17 attempts in his best showing of the year, was also injured in the Dolphins game. Conner attempted to return from a shoulder injury in the last game against the Browns, but he had to bail after one quarter, and is now out once again.
Snell, however, is back on the field, and given what they have seen from Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, and Tony Brooks-James, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner couldn’t help himself but to be a little bit energized by that.
“I like the idea that Benny Snell’s back to practice, and hopefully he’s still in a good position to be able to contribute and get back to us”, Fichtner told reporters last week, via transcript. “So that always helps because he’s right here to be a runner, and I thought he was making some really nice strides the last time we saw him. So hopefully that’ll keep staying on track”.
While he only rushed for 10 yards on five carries in the game in which he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out for the next three weeks—and only one of them was a positive play—it was tough running on that day with the blocking he was provided.
Fichtner expressed enthusiasm for Snell’s return, but he wasn’t throwing the rest under the bus. He noted that Samuels is “now back for his third week after coming off his knee. I expect Jaylen to be a little bit better. You know, just truthful”. He also said elsewhere that “these guys have done a nice job of really ‘next man up’ doing it, and putting us in a position”.
“We’ve got to take it upon ourselves to commit ourselves even more to the run at certain times”, the second-year coordinator said, “and I think that commitment shows in reps, and I don’t think at one point last week, maybe later in the second half, that I did a good enough job of putting us in a position to run”.
So he’s willing to share in the blame, sure. Still, I don’t think he could really hide the fact that he’s glad that Snell is back, knowing what the ground game has produced in recent weeks, in the hope for something different.