The Pittsburgh Steelers have gone five consecutive drafts now with at least one selection at the running back position. The run started with James Conner in the third round, who is no longer here, with the latest being a first-round selection of Najee Harris.
The man in between, Benny Snell, is in an interesting position right now. Ostensibly, he is set up to be the team’s number two back, the player who would take some of the load off of Harris’ shoulders and start if he were injured, yet many have suggested that his roster spot is in jeopardy.
Either way, it’s clear that the Steelers drafted Harris to be their do-everything back, which calls into question what opportunities there will be for others. During his recent football camp, the Kentucky product talked about the Steelers’ running back situation and where he fits in.
“Honestly, I can say that I’m taking it as a part of my journey. I’ve never settled and been comfortable”, he said. “This is my job now. Another thing I keep in mind is that the Steelers picked me. I didn’t pick the Steelers. So I’m ride-and-die about where I’m at, and when it’s time to work, it’s time to work”.
“Even on top of us having Najee, you can’t just do a one-back [system] for the whole season”, he added. “Impossible. I definitely know that roles and big-time moments are gonna come up, and I’m gonna make sure I’m ready for them. I’m just keeping my head down and I’m working”.
Snell had a promising rookie season as a fourth-round pick in 2019, getting playing time while Conner was injured. After some initial struggles, he finished the year with 426 rushing yards and two touchdowns, upping his average to 3.9 yards per carry over the course of the season.
It seemed like he was picking up where he left off in the opener in 2020. After Conner checked out with an ankle injury, he ran for 113 yards on just 19 carries for his first, and so far only, 100-yard rushing game. But he would finish the season averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on 111 carries for 368 yards. He did score four touchdowns, but also had two fumbles.
With Conner gone and Harris swapped in his place, Snell is among three returning veterans alongside second-year Anthony McFarland and Jaylen Samuels, going into the final year of his rookie deal and likely the most vulnerable of the group.
The Steelers also added veteran running back Kalen Ballage in free agency, who shares many of the same traits as Snell and likely would be his most direct competition for a roster spot. They have five rosterable backs, and must decide if they will keep three or four of them.
Despite the recent speculation from certain venues, and his poor efficiency numbers, however, I still believe Snell is fairly safe as the team heads into training camp. The decision will ultimately be made there and in the preseason, but it seems the team remains high on Benny Snell Football.