For the limited amount work he received during his 2019 rookie season, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. represented himself well. In 2020, Snell will likely start the regular season as the team’s backup power running back behind starter James Conner and that should ultimately lead to him seeing some touches in every game out of the chute, in addition to him playing a lot again on special teams. On Wednesday, Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner was asked to describe what he saw out of Snell during his 2019 rookie season and what he expects out of the Kentucky product in his second season.
“Yeah, Benny Snell Football,” Faulkner said of Snell, who rushed for 426 yards and two touchdowns on 108 total carries as a rookie. “He thrives — I think going back to college — he gets better as the game goes on and becomes a quote, unquote finisher of those games. So, I would expect that to continue to grow for him.
“My expectation in year two would be for him to be more solid in understanding past protections. Him to be more solid in understanding route concepts. We did not need to ask him to do that as much last year because we had other guys that could play that role and we still do, but as far as his development, that’s the next step.”
Faulkner went on to say that he thinks Snell probably isn’t too far away from becoming a complete running back for the Steelers.
“He’s a willing and very capable pass protector, but I want him to understand it like I do,” Faulkner said Wednesday. “And so, when he makes that next step, I think he’s headed down the direction of being complete because he’s got really good hands and he can protect and obviously we’ve seen him as a runner. I think that will continue to approve with the shape he’s in and in turn, you know, he’ll just get better with time.”
Had Snell not missed three games in the middle of his rookie season with a knee injury, the team’s 2019 fourth-round draft pick probably would have seen a lot more playing time on offense and subsequently more touches of the football as well. In the two games that Snell did start last season, he rushed for over 90 yards in each of them and averaged 4.84 yards per carry. He also had three of the team’s nine total runs that resulted in gains of 20 yards or longer last season.
As most of us expected, Snell apparently really focused on his body during the offseason and judging by the photos we’ve seen of him from the team since training camp got underway, it really looks like he transformed his body quite a bit. On Wednesday, Faulkner confirmed that to be the case and he was asked if it was a result of the team instructing Snell to do so.
“Well, I think whenever a new guy shows up, there’s a process of getting them to understand how you go about your business as a professional,” Faulkner said. “That was no different with Benny as a rookie last year and the same process has gone on with Anthony McFarland as a rookie this year. So, yes, we guide them on the best ways to take care of their body, what to eat, the proper precautionary measures they need to take to keep themselves as healthy as possible.
“These are constant conversations we have, but then it falls on the player to implement those things. And what’s been really good to see, and yes, that is true, Benny looks better, he’s done a lot of running. You can see the work he’s put in, but the exciting part about it is he did it while being away from us. So, you know he had a focus on getting right and getting in the best shape he can.”
So, what is the outlook for Benny Snell Football in year two?
“I’m excited with Benny, that’s a guy that’s passionate and loves the game,” Faulkner said on Wednesday. “And so, he’ll pick things up. I feel like he’ll hit the ground running this year.”