Given the manner in which the Pittsburgh Steelers have performed running the ball for what at this point is the majority off the season, the effort that we got out of Benny Snell last night against the Cincinnati Bengals has to amount to something of a minor success at the very least.
The second-year running back recorded 84 yards on the ground on 18 carries, which included a long gain of 29 yards, their first explosive rushing play that I can recall in a while. He also had a one-yard touchdown pass. The good majority of his carries were successful runs, as well, certainly one of the highest percentages that we have seen in a while.
So what was the key to the ground game getting going against the Cincinnati Bengals? Was it the workload? Was it the Bengals’ battered front line? Was it some changes to the personnel, shifting in Derwin Gray some at left guard? “They called running plays’, Snell said after the game.
Snell, of course, hasn’t been having a resoundingly good season. Although he started off the season well with a 19-carry, 113-yard game in the opener, since then and leading up to tonight’s game he had rushed for just 161 yards on 65 attempts—below two and a half yards per carry. He did have three rushing touchdowns in that span.
Snell has only hit double-digit carries in three games this season, and they all happened to have been his best performances. His success rate on his runs also skewed toward the late stages of the game in all three affairs, providing evidence to the idea that he gets better with the more attempts he gets as the game goes on.
So what does this performance mean—especially considering it came amid a frustrating loss in a game that would have secured for the Steelers the AFC North title? The offense still only put up 17 points. There are clearly major issues.
”I feel like that’s something that we probably need to work on a little bit more as an offense, collectively as a group, and we’ll do that”, Snell said when asked about what they could take away from the game in terms of the rhythm of the offense.
Can we at least assume that the running game is slowly getting back on the right track just in time, and that James Conner’s eventual return will only further aid that cause? Can they get something going in this area in time for the postseason, to take some pressure off of Ben Roethlisberger? If you ask Snell, you know what he’ll say.
Call more running plays.