The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Benny Snell will survive roster cuts and be on the 53-man roster this season.
Explanation: Even though the Steelers have already lost James Conner this offseason, it’s quite possible that up to three of last year’s backs will not make the roster in 2021. They have already signed Kalen Ballage in free agency, and there is an extremely high degree of likelihood that they will draft a running back high in a couple of weeks. Jaylen Samuels is the likeliest to lose a roster spot, but others, including Snell, could also be vulnerable.
A top back in the draft, Anthony McFarland, and Ballage. That’s your running back room this year. Pretty inexperienced overall — though the running back room hadn’t been very experienced in the past couple of years anyway — but there you have it.
Multiple beat writers have said that the Steelers’ plan this offseason is to fix the running game. Part of that plan is to make changes about who is carrying the ball. Many saw Benny Snell as something of a short-yardage back, at least in terms of role. But his success rate in that department left much to be desired. People can view Ballage as something of an upgrade there.
The Steelers are in the Benny Snell Football business. They like him, and they understand that all of last season’s problems weren’t on him. He is a capable workhorse back who can carry the load but serves best as a number two. That’s what he can be to a rookie runner.
The more important upgrade is the offensive line. Ballage won’t look any better than Snell running behind the line the way that they played in the running game a year ago. Just because Pittsburgh signed him doesn’t mean he’s going to make the roster.
And they could also once again keep four running backs this year, as they did last year. They even had five running backs for a stretch in 2019, so it’s not out of the ordinary. In which case, Snell is favored to remain.