Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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 Jr.
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Although he made the team, fourth-year veteran running back Benny Snell Jr. did so while also receiving a demotion. Head coach Mike Tomlin’s first official depth chart for the regular season lists him as the third-string running back, behind rookie college free agent Jaylen Warren, now, evidently, the backup to Najee Harris.
We might be seeing a lot more Benny Snell Special Teams Football this year than other varieties. The fourth-year veteran running back is no longer second on the depth chart, at least on paper, rookie Jaylen Warren now in that spot.
Of course, a depth chart is a piece of paper and doesn’t bind a coaching staff to do things in an order that necessarily reflects what that piece of paper says. For all we know, all three of the backs could get 150 carries apiece this season and rush for 600 yards.
But decisions are made when writing out a depth chart, regardless of what the person who makes them up says about their importance. The fact of the matter is that Tomlin decided to list Warren ahead of Snell, and that means something about how he views the two players in relation to one another.
It’s a great opportunity for the rookie, who did impress during training camp and demonstrated the makings of a well-rounded skill set as well as a willingness and ability to contribute on special teams to boot.
The truth is that we have seen three full seasons of Benny Snell Football, and unless he has the time to get things in gear over the full course of a game, it has often left a lot to be desired. Warren has shown indications that he is more of a self-starter, more able to create his own yards, and with more reliable hands and an YAC ability as a receiver.
I do admit to being mildly surprised with Tomlin’s decision here, but not in a bad way. I welcome the opportunity for the rookie to get a chance to prove himself, assuming that Tomlin actually does manage to get Najee Harris off the field for a snap or two here and there.