Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: RB Benny Snell
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While practice is really just getting underway, some of Snell’s teammates and coaches have already been talking him up and noticing the improvements that he has made as he heads into his second season.
Benny Snell could potentially play a big role for the Steelers in 2020, if they happen to have bad luck once again with James Conner’s health. Considering that he has suffered significant injuries in each of his first three seasons that has caused him to miss at least three games (a knee injury as a rookie put him on injured reserve late in the year), it’s not an unreasonable concern.
A Conner injury would almost surely put Snell in the starting lineup. Though he and Jaylen Samuels split time when Conner was out last season, he would likely take over a bigger overall role in his second year, after having gained a deal of experience from his first season.
As a rookie, he did manage to gain 426 yards on the ground on 108 carries, including two touchdowns. While there was a good handful of negative plays mixed in, something that he has to work on, he also showed that he has the potential to break off those 10-yard, and even 20-yard runs.
Both Conner and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner have taken note of the progress that Snell has made since his rookie season, with the most obvious evidence of that being the fact that he is in the best shape of his life—a very common theme for running backs entering year two after realizing that the previous level of conditioning they were used to at the college level is not sufficient for the pros.
He will never develop into a burner—they are hoping that Anthony McFarland can provide that as a change-of-pace back—Snell has shown the potential to be a workhorse-style runner who can pick up 20-plus carries regularly if necessary, and also make his contributions in the passing game, both as a receiving option and as a pass protector.
Some of those things will be harder to work on without the benefit of a preseason this year, but there will be plenty of opportunities throughout the season to learn some lessons the hard way if necessary. One way or the other, he feels bound to get playing time.