Traditional statistics have their purpose, but they need contextualization, especially when they are misleading. If you look at Benny Snell’s raw numbers, for example, you would think that the second-year Pittsburgh Steelers running back played a poor game on Wednesday against the Baltimore Ravens.
He finished with 60 rushing yards on 16 carries, which falls short of four yards per carry, generally considered a benchmark of sorts for whether or not a running back is successful. He did not score, either, but he did add three receptions for 33 yards.
Many of his carries came late in the game when the Steelers were trying to close it out. After the Ravens were able to put up a surprise touchdown on a 70-yard pass play, they were able to grind out the final three minutes of the game, so Baltimore never had possession with the opportunity to tie the game or take the lead. Snell had the final four offensive snaps of the game, recording two first downs, prior to a kneeldown. It drew praise from his head coach, Mike Tomlin, the day after the game.
“I can’t say enough about the individual efforts of Benny Snell, particularly his run demeanor at the end of the game”, he said of the Kentucky back. “That was a guy that was really competing, but doing the fundamental things that you need a guy in his position to do. He took really good care of the football from a security standpoint. He showed situational awareness, a couple of times staying inbounds when he was along the sideline”.
His 51 snaps played against the Ravens were by far a career high for the former fourth-round draft pick. Even though he technically started a couple of games last season, he was rotated in and out heavily. He still got over 100 carries in 2019, thanks to James Conner’s unavailability.
The fourth-year former Pro Bowler, however, has been durable this year. Outside of an ankle injury in the opener, he had been consistently available for the offense up until this past game, and only because he tested positive for Covid-19.
At the moment, it is unclear whether or not Conner will be available to return in time for the Steelers’ next game against the Washington Football Team. If not, then obviously Snell would have to start again. His performance against Baltimore appears to have reinforced in the coaches’ eyes their confidence in his ability to deliver when called upon.