The Pittsburgh Steelers could have been a great team if they were healthy this year. They’re not, of course, especially on the offensive side of the ball, and no single injury was as damaging as that to Ben Roethlisberger, yet they have still managed to post a 6-3 record since he went down.
Regardless of that fact, this team in 2019 will never be as good as it could have been because of that. The offense has been the weak link for the vast majority of the season, and other than Roethlisberger being out, the frequent and plentiful injuries at the running back position have prevented them from getting much of anything going on the ground.
James Conner is about to miss his fifth game of the season. Jaylen Samuels also missed multiple games, and Benny Snell, fresh off of a knee injury, missed three. Frankly, only Snell of the three has been able to look good coming back from his injury.
That came in the form of a 98-yard, 21-carry performance on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, and with Conner out again today, he’ll have another shot at working his way into the lead role for now, and the lead backup when their Pro Bowler gets back.
“It’s getting there”, Samuels said of the running game. “We’ve just got to keep working, get back in the lab. Just look at the little things we’re doing wrong, clean them up, and we’ll be good to go. You’ve seen a little glimpse of it last week, so hopefully we can keep building on it for the run game”.
As for Samuels, he hasn’t had the sophomore season many envisioned for him. He has just 121 rushing yards on 47 attempts with one touchdown. He also has 37 receptions, but for just 212 yards. He is averaging just four yards per touch on 84 touches.
That is part of the reason that the opportunity has been available for Snell to make the sort of impact that he had on Sunday. Samuels had just two carries for six yards last week, and three receptions for 26 yards. But the whole room has been impressed with the rookie.
Especially “his awareness”, Samuels said of Snell. “Him finishing runs, breaking tackles, making guys miss and getting those first downs that we need him to do. Hopefully he can keep doing that and we can just keep pounding the ball and then throwing it when we can”.
While the Steelers did not run the ball well two games ago against the Cleveland Browns, they are overall one of the worse run defenses they have faced this season, and with Snell back, playing at home, they have a better opportunity for success this afternoon.