Now that the 2020 regular season 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 are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
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. 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 season as we move forward.
Player: Benny Snell
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: It would be easy to focus on injuries right now, but I don’t want to even start down that road before we know more, and at least as of the time of this writing, we don’t have that information. Instead, we’ll focus on Benny Snell and his impressive debut in his second season, rattling off his first 100-yard game.
If you look at the rushing leaders right now, Benny Snell is third in the NFL after totaling 113 yards on the ground, one of just three running backs to hit the century mark in Week One of the 2020 regular season. Just a short time after the Steelers played, Derrick Henry rushed for 116 yards. In the opening game of the season, Kansas City Chiefs rookie first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 138 yards to hold the current league lead.
Snell’s 30-yard carry is currently the longest in the NFL. Only he and Kyler Murray, the Arizona Cardinals’ second-year running back, have multiple rushes of 20-plus yards on the season. Oh yeah, did I mention that Snell is the Steelers’ backup running back to James Conner, a Pro Bowler in 2018?
A fourth-round pick a year ago, Snell recorded over 100 rushing attempts as a rookie and showed some potential, to be sure, but he came in this season clearly demonstrating that he put in substantial work in the offseason, not just in his physical conditioning, but also in his understanding of the playbook.
Conner is currently dealing with a minor ankle injury, but it’s not currently clear whether or not he may be in jeopardy of missing next week’s game, especially since we are operating on a short week. Either way, the Steelers likely will not hesitate to put Snell on the field after the way that he played against a pretty stout New York Giants front seven.
It’s also important to emphasize that he played well in pass protection, which can be slow to come on for many running backs. The next step for him is getting more involved in the passing game. In fact, the running backs—and tight ends—weren’t much of a factor in that area for the Steelers last night.