Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. didn’t have a bad rookie season as the teams fourth-round draft pick out of Kentucky rushed for 426 yards and two touchdowns on 108 carries in addition to catching three passes for another 23 yards. With his rookie season now behind him, Snell talked about it during a Thursday morning interview on 93.7 The Fan.
The first thing Snell was asked on Thursday was what he learned from his rookie season that he knows he must improve on to make a big second season jump in 2020.
“I feel like one of the major things that I’ll be ready for in the next year is, you know, tying everything together that I’m going to work on in the offseason,” Snell said. “So, with getting my body right, being a step ahead watching film on opponents as well as tying my training together. So, it’s catching the ball, my pass blocking and you know, I can run a ball, but you know, it’s all about the other little things that I could do to help the offense move better.”
Snell was later asked if there was one teammate of his that he learned the most from during his rookie season and without hesitation he said it was fullback Roosevelt Nix, who unfortunately missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury.
“I could say I probably learned the most from Rosie Nix,” Snell said. “Tenured guy, fullback, veteran, he’s taught me a lot on and off the field. With mistakes that I’ve made on the field or how to correct them to when I make a good play and to forgetting about that play and moving on to the next play. So, there’s been a lot of ups and downs this season and I’ve learned from all of them.”
Snell was then asked to describe what kind of NFL back he considers himself to be.
“So, that’s kind of a tough question, Snell said. “I would like to say this past year maybe I would just say I had a role on being, you could say, a power back to an every-down back whenever they needed me. “Moving on forward, I want to be a volume guy. You know, I want to be able to play at a high pace and be able to stay in the game to show what I can do. But, you know, the coaches call the plays and the formations, however they do it, versus the defense that we get. So, that’s how that is. But I definitely want to display way more than I did this past year.”
In the two games that Snell started during his rookie season, in addition to a few more that resulted in him registering more than 15 total carries, he seemed to get stronger and more productive as those particular contests wore on. Because of that, Snell was asked on Thursday if he feels like he’s one of those running backs that gets stronger as he gets more carries as a game progresses.
“I definitely feel like that’s one of my best attributes of playing football and being in the game is that I feel like I catch on to the game and I get better as it goes on,” Snell said. “Even on special teams as well.”
Snell recently had his end-of-the-season exit interview with head coach Mike Tomlin and on Thursday he was asked to disclose what he was told during it that he needs to work on ahead of the 2020 season.
“In my exit interview I felt like what I did well this season was at the time that my number was called, I was able to step up,” Snell said. “I took pride in those times that my number was called on offense and starting on all four special teams as well in doing so. So, I tried to bring as much as I could to the table. From a performance wise, what I need to probably work on is probably my quick twitch. So, like quick feet doing ladder work. I definitely want to be able to catch the ball a little bit more. And kind of like I said earlier, I want to make sure I’m two steps ahead of my opponent, so I want to learn the plays a little bit more down to a T and the defenses as well.”
We’ve seen the Steelers other two recently drafted running backs, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels, both make huge jumps in their second seasons from an overall conditioning standpoint. Assuming Snell has a tremendous offseason from an overall conditioning standpoint, will he ultimately be given an opportunity to be the Steelers primary running back in 2020? We’ll see as both Conner and Samuels should be back competing for jobs at training camp in July.
Many fans of the Steelers are pushing for the team to have yet another rookie running back in the fold this spring in the form of an early-round draft pick. While I don’t think that will happen, it doesn’t mean it won’t. Regardless, the Steelers starting running back position for 2020 is seemingly up for grabs with the offseason now underway for a few weeks and that’s mainly because of Conner missing a lot of time this past season due to injuries and Snell playing well when his number was called.
Whatever transpires on the Steelers running back depth chart between now and the start of the 2020 regular season needs to result in a revitalized running game as the team’s over-sized running back by committee approach due to attrition that was used during the 2019 season had unacceptable results.