James Conner remains the Pittsburgh Steelers feature back. But if he’s unavailable at some point during the season, as has been the case far too often the last two years, Benny Snell is next man up. Conner seems to think he’s ready and is impressed by the work Snell’s put in heading into his sophomore season. Conner talked about Snell in a Zoom call with media Wednesday morning.
“He’s real focused this year,” he said about Snell via this clip Chris Adamski tweeted out. “You can tell he put in a lot of work during the offseason. He’s slim, fast, eager to learn. He looks ready. I’m excited for him. He looks fast, he’s in shape. Big things coming from him.”
As we wrote about when players began reporting to camp, Snell looked to have slimmed down some from his rookie season. It’s unknown exactly how much weight he’s shed but definitely a couple pounds.
Conner’s not the only one to notice Snell’s weight change either. RBs coach Eddie Faulkner said the same in his Q&A with the media today, sharing similar excitement.
It would follow the footsteps of Steelers’ backs before him. One of the first things Le’Veon Bell did was drop weight, over 25 pounds from the start of his NFL career to the time he left Pittsburgh. Conner himself was a completely different looking player in Year Two, also dropping weight and becoming a much more versatile player.
Snell spent at least part of the offseason working out alongside former Steelers’ FB Roosevelt Nix in their home state of Ohio. Snell recently spoke to getting better in all aspects of his game, including making strides as a blocker and receiver. Though he’s flashed good hands in training camp, he caught just three passes as a rookie.
Most of his impact in 2019 came as a runner. He carried the ball 108 times for 426 yards and two touchdowns despite missing three games after undergoing knee surgery.
Mike Tomlin is one of the few remaining proponents of having a feature back offense, a lead player who handles the lion’s share of the workload. Conner has proven the ability to be that guy but not the durability. If he again gets hurt, Snell could have the chance to be “the guy” just as he was at Kentucky. Dropping weight, getting more explosive, and improving his conditioning will allow Snell to run with the opportunity if it presents itself.