What will the running game look like for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020? I think that’s the question we should be asking, rather than the one many seem to prefer, which is what will the running back position look like?
Frankly, I think we already know what it will look like. While even many beat writers are getting on the ‘need to draft a running back early’ bandwagon, I don’t see it happening. James Conner, Benny Snell, and Jaylen Samuels are going to be your running backs next season, with Kerrith Whyte as the wildcard. They may not draft a running back at all. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest.
What the running game will look like is another matter. How much will they even run the ball? At least one of them hopes that it will be quite a bit. Snell told The Fan yesterday that he hopes in the future to be a ‘volume guy’. He also talked about his view of the role of the running game.
“It’s something that gives you dominance in a game, and there’s many ways you can do that”, he said of what a strong running game can do for an offense. “But once you start up front and you start moving the chains, that’s when you’re starting to get control”.
All things being equal, I think most teams would like to be able to run the ball as often as possible, provided that they could guarantee successful results with relative consistency. Offensive lines typically prefer the opportunity to run block, for one thing, and it keeps the defense off the field if you can move the ball methodically on the ground.
The Steelers haven’t done that a whole lot in recent years, but Snell is hoping that he can. While never an explosive back, he had a productive and prolific college career as a workhorse back. He might not break off many 40-yard runs, but he’ll get you the five or 15 that you need.
Fans instantly took to him when he was drafted because of his tape and his personality, but once he got on the field, he did struggle initially to make the transition from the college level to the pros. The learning curve seemed to plateau over the course of the season, though, and finished off the year wit ha good game against the Ravens.
With Conner’s ability to stay healthy in question, it’s fair to wonder how much work Snell might be asked to take on in 2020. It’s realistic that he could end up as their primary running back—assuming he’s able to make a significant year-two jump.