Benny Snell could be a difference maker in 2020 for Steelers

James Conner can’t seem to stay healthy, so Benny Snell could be a difference maker for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense was an injury-hampered mess in 2019, with Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner all missing a chunk of games. In Conner’s stead, Benny Snell was one guy that got a bigger opportunity.

A fourth-round pick out of Kentucky in 2019, Snell had just six carries through Week 5 of his rookie season. But in Week 6, when Conner suffered a quad injury, Snell showed what he could do with 17 carries for 75 yards and one catch for 14 yards.

Conner missed Week 9 and Week 10, the barely played Week 11. That would have been an opportunity for Snell, but he missed those three games with a knee injury. But he would get a mulligan, as Conner missed Week 12-14.

Can Benny Snell be a workhorse?

Over that three-game span, against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, Snell had 202 yards on 53 carries. Conner attempted to play in Week 15 and 16, limiting Snell’s work (a total of nine carries). Then he got the start in Week 17, and posted 91 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens.

In the five games where he had at least 16 carries last year, Snell averaged a fairly pedestrian 4.2 yards per carry (88 carries for 368 yards with two touchdowns). He wasn’t asked to do much in the passing game (three catches for 23 yards), as Jaylen Samuels took that work when Conner was out. But Snell showed he could hold down the fort as the lead early down back with Devlin Hodges under center.

Conner can’t be counted to stay healthy when he gets on the field, and his cancer history puts him in a higher-risk category for COVID-19 as players and teams navigate that situation. So Snell’s role that currently looks small or limited could yield fruit, and the Steelers may wind up having to count on him.

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