For a few years now, we’ve discussed the importance of a running back’s sophomore year. Fans saw it with Le’Veon Bell in 2014 and James Conner in 2018. Both guys dropped weight, added muscle, transformed their bodies- and their production.
Benny Snell is hoping to do the same in 2020. Judging by how he entered Pittsburgh yesterday, he might be taking a page out of their book. The Steelers’ social media team snapped a photo of a svelte-looking Snell Tuesday.
Granted, we’re used to seeing the guy in pads but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Snell drop some weight and get himself in better shape to attack Year 2. That’s common for all rookies, not just running backs. Wide receiver James Washington did the same a year ago, looking like a totally different player than his rookie season. Conner did the same as a sophomore. Here’s what we wrote about him in our 2018 camp recap:
“Conner showed up a slimmer version of his rookie self and became a much more versatile player. Notably as a receiver. He didn’t catch a ton of passes in camp, 11 in total, but several of them were higher degree of difficulty. Conner is someone you now can split out wide and move around the formation, though Le’Veon Bell is still significantly better than him.”
If Snell wants to be the Steelers’ future back, you have to be conditioned like a feature back. Bell was. Conner is. And Mike Tomlin loves having a bellcow. He also loves Benny Snell, as this clip from last season should remind you.
At the 2019 Combine, he weighed in at 224 pounds. His 4.66 40 time reflected it and he fell to the fourth round before Pittsburgh came calling.
Of course, Snell will begin the season no better than Conner’s backup. But Conner’s injury history is obvious and extensive. It would surprise no one if the team called upon Snell and the other backups to shoulder the load for parts of the season. As a rookie, he rushed for 429 yards, 3.9 YPC and two touchdowns. Getting that average over four would be ideal.