Preparation is paramount in the NFL, and Benny Snell’s Week 1 performance is a prime example of that lesson.
Listed as Pittsburgh’s second runner-up behind James Corner, Snell did not begin his second professional season with great expectations. After seeing double-digit carry in less than half of his first 13 NFL games, he really could not expect a heavy assignment. The spotlight has now been trained on Snell, however, he blasted 113 yards while filling in for Conner on the national stage Monday Night Football.
“(Snell) was ready to answer the bell,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the 26-16 victory over the New York Giants via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Conner was ruled out of the opener early due to an ankle injury, forcing the Steelers to turn to Snell, with the former Kentucky star averaging 3.9 yards per second on 108 attempts in 2019. Snell shattered that mark on Monday, posting 5.9 yards per carry on average. Thanks to three runs of 14, 21 and 30 yards – that made up more than half of his total.
For a player who could rely more on the representative of special teams – don’t worry, he still fulfilled those duties – as encouraging as he could, it was encouraging to say the least.
“I worked hard,” Snell said, “and I did what the Steelers told me.”
Conner’s latest illness has stunted the Steelers offense in previous years, when the unit would be forced into the likes of Jaylen Samuels and others. Snell’s Monday night performance provides evidence that Pittsburgh can recover without Connor if the general starter has to miss some time.
“We’ve talked openly about the maturity process, the things you might expect from a second-year player,” Tomlin said. “He showed signs of this team-development process right from the beginning … so I was surprised at what he was capable of. He is a quality player and he is maturing and emerging.”
While it’s encouraging, it’s just one week and one of the NFL’s worst teams last season. We will need more proof before we can put him on the list of breakout stars. But there are many, many bad ways to start your second professional season.