James Conner hasn’t been on the practice field too much over the course of the past couple of weeks. Roosevelt Nix hasn’t been available for most of the year. He’s on the Reserve/Injured List, in fact. That doesn’t mean they’re not still out there. And they’ve been there in recent weeks for rookie Benny Snell.
Following his 21-carry, 98-yard game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Snell talked about how Conner and Nix had been helping him get prepared coming off of his knee injury. They’ve been putting in the work with him, and so they’ve been taking a certain amount of pride in watching him have success as well.
Said Conner yesterday on his radio show, it’s “just awesome to see what he’s doing, the confidence that he’s playing with out there in big situations. I’m loving it”. He added, “it’s only going to help us going forward with him being in this situation early in his career. Me and the rest of the team only expect him to continue to grow and do good things. He’s just running great”.
While Snell’s stat line against the Cleveland Browns wasn’t necessarily as impressive—he picked up 63 yards on 16 carries, but he also recorded his first touchdown—it was another strong overall effort from the rookie fourth-round pick that has his teammates and coaches excited.
After the game, Mike Tomlin was pretty enthusiastic about what he saw from his current lead back, saying that he gets strong as the game goes on and that he shows “the mentality of a featured runner”. In each of the past two weeks, they have relied upon him to grind out the clock late in the game.
“He has style, and he owns it”, Conner said. “He means it when he says that’s his type of football. He’s balling real hard. He’s been handling the ball great, running great, doing everything that we ask him to do. Early in the season with special teams, he was a big contributor on that”.
Snell entered the season third on the depth chart behind Conner and Jaylen Samuels, not getting much work, but injuries first to Snell and then to Conner opened the door for him. Then he was injured himself and was sidelined for three weeks, but he came back and picked up right where he left off.
On the season, he now has 65 carries for 279 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry with one touchdown. He also has three receptions for 23 yards. With it looking as though Conner may still miss one or more games, he figures to have an opportunity to boost those totals a fair amount before his rookie season is over.