There weren’t many bright spots for the Pittsburgh Steelers last night. After all, they just lost to a bad team starting their third-string quarterback for the first game this season. And it was their third loss in a row, on top of that. And they’ve fallen from the first seed to the third seed, with their grip on a division title now loosening.
With that said, there were a few individual performances worth acknowledging. You had, for example, the Pro Bowlers on defense, especially T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick, who had nice games. Offensively, Diontae Johnson saw 13 targets without dropping a ball and got into the end zone.
So did another second-year man, running back Benny Snell, who carried the ball 18 times against the Cincinnati Bengals for 84 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, including a touchdown. He had a long run of 29 in what was by far his best performance since the season opener.
“I thought he ran hard”, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said of Snell’s performance during the game, after starting running back James Conner was ruled out due to a quad injury. “I was really proud of the way he ran the ball tonight”.
Snell had already been the lead runner for most of the past three weeks because Conner also missed two games after testing positive for Covid-19. While he returned last week, he suffered the quad injury that knocked him out of this game, and limited him to just a few snaps the second half of that one.
With the Steelers trailing by 17 point at halftime, there was only so much running that the Steelers could do, as head coach Mike Tomlin admitted after the game, noting that it limited Snell’s opportunities. “It did, but that’s what happens when you fall behind in football games”.
Still, the Steelers don’t even manage to get their running back 18 carries lately. If you take out Roethlisberger’s botched snap and Chase Claypool’s disastrous end-around, they actually rushed for 93 yards on 20 attempts, which is pretty good as a team. Jaylen Samuels gained four yards on his one carry, and Anthony McFarland had five on his.
Should we take anything positive away from this performance in the running game against the Bengals front line that is admittedly very beat up? Two of their starters are on the Reserve/Injured List and they traded away Carlos Dunlap. Still, they have Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson on the edges, so at least that is nothing to sneeze at.