Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth 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 have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into 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 reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Benny Snell
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: The 2021 season may not have been a notable one for Benny Snell, the third-year running back, but he was coming off of such an unremarkable year in 2020 that it could hardly have gone down.
Benny Snell played more on offense in 2020 than he did in 2021, but that was largely a product of health of their former starter James Conner. Najee Harris hardly even came off the field, seemingly, and as a result, Snell’s snap count, despite an extra game, dropped from 281 to 110.
He got 36 carries for his troubles after recording more than 100 attempts in each of his first two seasons, producing just 98 yards, falling comfortably short of the three-yard average mark, and he failed to get into the end zone, as well.
However, he did not fumble, which he did twice in 2020, and importantly (for him, anyway), he significantly expanded his role, and thus his value, on special teams, bumping up his workload from 198 snaps (43 percent of the total) to 326 snaps (67 percent).
This was caused primarily by more consistent opportunities on the return units, which ebbed and flowed during the 2020 season until he was ultimately taken off of them entirely toward the middle of the season. This year, he played more snaps on kick returns than on any other unit.
That’s what he’ll be telling coaches in August when he’s arguing for his roster spot, because there isn’t much that he did this past year that would convince you that he needs to be retained on the depth chart.
Even taking into consideration the play of the offensive line, Snell rarely even seemed to get the expected yardage that was out in front of him, but that has been common during his career in early-game carries. The games in which he has looked the strongest are the ones in which he had a starting role, and that’s not a good quality to have as the backup to a bell cow. He needs to offer quality on about five touches per game.