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 record at least 100 touches for the third consecutive season.
Explanation: Benny Snell became the first Steelers’ rookie when he was drafted in 2019 to record 100-plus touches in a season since Le’Veon Bell. He had another 100-plus touches last year. Now they have a rookie starter in Najee Harris, who could need some adjustment time.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers still love themselves some Benny Snell Football, even if it only got them 3.3 yards per carry last year. But with a more physical offensive line scheme, it should better suit his running style, for one thing.
Najee Harris is an impressive specimen, make no mistake. But just look at Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool the last two years. Tomlin managed their snaps down the stretch. They’re not going to overload Harris, and that means Snell is going to get the opportunity to play.
And he’s going to play in a 17-game season. That’s 6.25 percent more Football for Benny to Snell, which will certainly help him reach that 100-touch mark. He had 115 touches last season in 16 games, averaging 7.8 per game. He would need to average about 5.9 touches per game to reach 100 touches in a 17-game season. That’s a more than reasonable expectation.
Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. It’s all predicated on the assumption that Snell is the clear number two back, but we don’t know that with Kalen Ballage and Anthony McFarland in the mix. Obviously, McFarland isn’t going to be the guy who spells Harris and plays the traditional running back position all the time, but he will eat into snaps, and Matt Canada will find ways to use him. And he’ll have to earn snaps over Ballage, a veteran.
The other factor is this: Contrary to managing rookie workloads, that isn’t a philosophy evenly distributed among all positions. Tomlin isn’t afraid to run any running back into the ground, and if that means Harris records 350 touches this year, well, don’t be against it happening.