The Pittsburgh Steelers put quite a few of their marbles for their 2019 rookie draft class in Devin Bush, their first-round draft pick, when they gave up their second-round pick in order to move up to get him. An instant starter, he is trending toward perhaps making the Pro Bowl, at least based on the fan voting, though that is very much to be determined.
That’s not to say, however, that they haven’t been getting valuable contributions from some of their other draft picks. While third-round cornerback Justin Layne is on something of a redshirt year, wide receiver Diontae Johnson has been the team’s number three receiver for most of the season.
Benny Snell wasn’t supposed to be too big of a contributor, but the Steelers haven’t had much choice except to allow him to be over the course of the past couple of weeks, with James Conner out. And that was after the rookie returned from a knee injury.
Following two quality games in which he received the bulk of the carries—he rushed for 161 yards on 37 carries between the two contests, including the first touchdown of his career—both those inside and outside the locker room are gaining a sense of comfort with what he can bring.
When head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about what Snell has shown and if that could lead to him having a bigger role than before once the position is healthy, he said, “he’s done a nice job with the opportunities given, yes”. He added that he is “appreciative of his efforts and excited about not only what he’s doing for us, but where it could lead”.
As things currently stand, it could lead to at least one more game in which he is the featured runner, depending upon whether or not Conner is ready to return on Sunday. He has already had one failed attempt to return from a shoulder injury that he says would require surgery if he comes back too soon and tries to play through it.
Should he remain sidelined, it’s all but guaranteed that Snell will continue to see the lion’s share of rushing attempts in a backfield that also includes Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, and Kerrith Whyte. Even when Conner does return, however, the possibility has seemingly been left open that we will see a greater distribution in the workload than we have witnessed when Conner has been healthy the past season and a half.
Tomlin said that he’s excited about where things could lead with Snell down the road. He’s also clearly expressed a level of excitement for Benny Snell’s brand of Benny Snell Football™. We must urge caution, however; we’ve seen short runs of success ultimately live up to little or nothing plenty of times in the past.