It seems as though whenever a Pittsburgh Steelers running back has a solid game, we get a little bit too excited—especially when Benny Snell has had a good game, because, by and large, he hasn’t been able to follow them up too well.
Snell is coming off another solid game, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts in a game that starter James Conner missed due to injury. Conner hasn’t been much of a factor in a month, also missing two games due to Covid-19 and then limited in the one game in which he did play due to injury, so, with Snell throwing people a bone, the focus turns back to him, and how he performed well in his last outing.
“He has. He has”, said offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. “He has done a good job with ball security. He is a fighter. He’s got pretty good contact balance. He usually falls forward. I know it means an awful lot to him. I say that because I see him. I see the time and the effort and the things he does to be a professional”.
Of course, he doesn’t always fall forward, because if that were the case, the Steelers would be much more successful on short-yardage possession downs. Instead, they’ve been one of the worst teams in the NFL there. But that’s not solely his doing.
Fichtner was asked if he felt Snell could be a bell-cow back, but Fichtner was more interested in what they could get going with both of their big backs on the field (not at the same time, though). “I’m excited with him right now, but I’m also excited that it looks like James might be coming back to us. Two of those guys being healthy might be just we need to help pick up our run game”.
As we’ve talked about ad nauseum, the Steelers were actually pretty good running the ball early in the season, putting up over 100 yards in each of the first five games. Since then, however, they have only managed that once in the past nine.
Part of that is a shift away from running, but that shift has also come because it wasn’t working. They don’t just consistently rush for under 100 yards—it’s often under 50 yards, and under three yards per rush attempt on top of that.
If Ben Roethlisberger isn’t going to give much better than what we saw from him, even in the second half, in his last time out, then this Steelers team is going to need a healthier running game without question, not just to win the division, but to hopefully at least win a playoff game or two.