Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner reinjured his shoulder Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns and as a result, the team has now probably lost him for the next couple of games. If indeed Conner winds up being sidelined starting this next week, hopefully rookie running back Benny Snell Jr. can return for the team’s Week 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Snell, who has missed the Steelers last three games after needing a meniscus tear in one of his knees repaired after the team’s Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins. After having his knee scope down it was reported that Snell would miss two to three weeks.
Prior to him injuring his knee, Snell, who was selected by the Steelers in the fourth-round this tear out of Kentucky, had rushed for 118 yards on 28 total carries. 13 of his 28 total runs were successful ones and two of them resulted in gains of more than 20 yards.
The Steelers running game has been dismal for most of the season with the few positive stretches being when either Conner or Snell have carried the football. The two running backs are more power runners that can also juke defenders, and both are much better football carrying options right now than fellow Steelers running backs Jaylen Samuels and Tony Brooks-James are.
The Steelers first and 10 play average and short yardage efficiency game has been miserable this season and both stats took hits Thursday night in Cleveland against the Browns. The Steelers offense registered just a 39.3% overall successful play rate on 1st and 10s (28 total) against the Browns and runs were 1-of-6 on that down and distance. Additionally, the unit converted just 2 of 10 opportunities on third and fourth downs when 3 yards or less were needed. One of those two short yardage conversions Thursday night was a quarterback sneak by Mason Rudolph.
Assuming Snell can play extensively a week from Sunday against the Bengals, he’ll have an opportunity to perhaps become the temporary top running back on the team and in doing so that could potentially allow Conner extra time to get his injured shoulder back to where it needs to be.
At this point, the Steelers running game can’t get much worse than it is right now and it being as bad as it is is making it harder for Rudolph to move the offense. In summation, the offense might could use a dose of ‘Benny Snell football’ to help get things going the right direction. It would be interesting to see what Snell could do with the lion’s share of the carries against the Bengals in Cincinnati, which isn’t too far from where he played his college football, Lexington, KY.
Keep your fingers crossed that Snell can return to practice early next week. If he does, we might just have shot at seeing a lot of ‘Benny Snell football’ on Sunday.