The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Benny Snell has shown that he is capable of being a lead runner, if not a featured back.
Explanation: While Snell is currently taking the lion’s share of carries on run downs, the Steelers are still mixing in a healthy dose of other faces. But the rookie running back seems to be accomplishing a fair amount with the opportunities that he is being given.
Snell has been back from a knee injury for two games now. He has been quite effective overall in both of those games, and hasn’t made too many mistakes—I can probably count them on one hand. Increasingly, he is showing the ability to make the most of his opportunities, getting what is blocked for him, and finding the hole when it’s available, failing forward when it’s not.
That is the most important quality of the lead runner—that and ball security, which has also been a significant plus strength for him so far in his young career. He is now up to 65 carries in his rookie season for 279 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry, and what’s more, he is finding success situationally, whether it’s on third down, on the goal line, or backed up to their own end zone. Trust is the key in this role, and he is earning that.
Enthusiasm has to be tempered here. For starters, his two strong performances over the past two weeks have come against two of the worse run defenses in the NFL in the Bengals and the Browns. And the Browns were down multiple starters in their front. Makes things a smidge easier. Aside from that, we’re still talking about a small sample size.
And where he struggles is in one-on-one situations without open space. He still lacks the ability to make that first guy miss in tight windows, and to make good decisions when presented in those situations .as long as that issue still pops up, there are going to be reservations about his long-term outlook in holding that role.