Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, 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 offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
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: RB Benny Snell
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: Between the departure of James Conner and the looming acquisition of a new lead back in the upcoming draft, Benny Snell’s positioning within the team has likely not changed much at this point.
We are now entering the third season of Benny Snell Football at RB, but are still hoping to see more production from that brand. Through his first two seasons, over 219 rushing attempts, which is no insignificant amount, the former Kentucky product is only averaging 3.6 yards per attempt, with 794 career rushing yards and six touchdowns.
For the bulk of that time, he has been stuck in the position of being the rotational back behind James Conner, who when healthy and available was clearly the most talented running back on the team. Snell’s best moments were in the games that he got the opportunity to get a lot of touches, seeming to get better as the game wore on.
That included last year’s season opener, during which he rushed for 113 yards on 19 carries, his first and so far only 100-yard rushing game, after Conner exited early with an ankle injury. It would be one of only two games on the season in which he would have at least five carries and average four yards per carry or better, the other being an 18-carry, 84-yard showing in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Conner might have left in free agency. But the departure came with the expectation of the Steelers drafting a running back whom they envision as their featured runner. That back could come as early as the first round — almost certainly by the end of Day 2. Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams are the top names who could possibly be the one to push Snell back down the depth chart.
Another factor that could work against Snell this year is Anthony McFarland, who should have a bigger part to play in year two. He was clearly raw and not ready for a lot of action during his rookie season a year ago, but we also have to account for a rookie back needing to be spelled as well, so there is still room for the Benny Snell Football brand.