Benny Snell Football™ will return for its third season in 2021. Running backs Coach Eddie Faulkner is excited to see it. Snell has had an up-and-down first two years in the league, flashing at moments but also struggling behind a questionable run-blocking offensive line. But this year is the time Faulkner thinks Snell can put it altogether. He spoke to reporters on a Tuesday Zoom call to lay out his expectations for Snell’s junior season in the league.
“Benny, first of all, I love how he’s physical,” Faulkner told reporters this afternoon. “I love how he plays the game of football. But Benny, he’s still a young guy, you know what I mean? In the sense of learning what’s going on and what to do. He’s ahead of some of the guys obviously younger than him, but he still has some work to do in terms of learning the little details about what we’re asking them to do, and he’s working hard to do that.”
Snell has generally been the next man up when James Conner battled injuries in 2019 and 2020. As a rookie, Snell carried the ball 108 times for 426 yards, an average of 3.9 yards per carry. His carries remained about the same last year, 101 attempts, but his effectiveness waned. He mustered only 368 yards on the ground and his average dropped to 3.3.
Despite lackluster numbers, Faulkner says he’s been pleased when the team has relied upon Snell to get the job done.
“I’m excited about Benny as well. Because Benny Snell Football is that. He’s trustworthy. Like you said, when he was called upon, he answered the bell. He’s trustworthy in that regard. And so I’ll continue to develop him and he is willing to develop, put the work in.”
The big question around Snell is how much more of a ceiling he has. As a third-year guy, Snell probably isn’t maxed out, and playing behind hopefully a better run-blocking line will help. He’s done really well to carve out a solid special teams role running down kicks and punts, but the Steelers’ selection of Najee Harris is proof enough they don’t view Snell as the every-down starter. Probably the correct assessment.
But Snell could still carve out a role in the Steelers’ offense, especially when Harris needs a breather. Given how hard the Steelers are expected to work Harris, odds are good he’ll need a break every now and then. Though they have different skillsets, Snell’s main competition will be battling Anthony McFarland for some of those rotational snaps.