Benny Snell impresses Steelers in 1st extensive action |

Benny Snell impresses Steelers in 1st extensive action

Chris Adamski
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Benny Snell runs the ball as Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell tries to stop him during the second half of last week’s game. The game was Snell’s first extensive action on offense as an NFL player.

Benny Snell was an accomplished and decorated college running back at Kentucky. But before last week, it was fair to question his NFL bona fides.

Snell’s performance against the Los Angeles Chargers seemingly have put any such concerns to rest as far as the Pittsburgh Steelers are concerned.

In his first extensive action as a running back in an NFL regular season game, Snell had 17 carries for 75 yards and added one catch for 14 yards (he had another 17-yard reception called back by penalty); he did his part to help close out a Steelers’ 24-17 victory.

“I’m not surprised of that performance,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “Sometimes it’s just a man and an opportunity. And we have seen signs of that. We have talked openly here about his level of production on special teams and that being an indicator of offensive or defensive readiness in a lot of instances with young guys. But we’re not surprised he was able at all.”

Some might have been, though, after watching Snell’s running in six games in uniform for the Steelers heading into that game. Before Sunday and outside of a 23-yard carry he had during a Week 2 rush, Snell had 33 NFL carries (counting the preseason) for 60 yards. He also failed on a pair of third-and-1 carries.

No such worries against the Chargers, as Snell had no carries for negative yardage and just one that did not gain at least a yard.

“Benny was Benny,” running backs coach Eddie Faulkner said. “As they say, Benny Snell football. He’s a downhill runner, he’s physical, he’s got a lot of passion. I love being around him, he wants to be good. It means a lot to him, and he will just continue to get better.

Snell had a school-record 3,873 rushing yards over three seasons at Kentucky. But some draftniks believed he lacked the burst and speed needed at the NFL level. He also wasn’t as accomplished as a pass-catcher, and NFL schemes require pass protection and blocking.

Faulkner complimented Snell on the strides he has made in those areas. He’s also been pleased with how Snell has embraced special teams. As the grandson of a former NFL player and son of a pro football running back (Ben Snell Sr. played in the XFL and World League) and as a standout in the SEC (school-record 3,873 rushing yards), perhaps Snell could have shunned the duties of covering and blocking for punts and kickoffs.

“Benny wants to be a great player, and so he is champing at the bit to get out there,” Faulkner said. “But he also understands that everybody has a skillet in that room, everybody brings something different to the table and he brings something to that table.

“You saw that start to show up on Sunday night. He’s continuing to work to gain the trust of the coaches and gain the trust of myself, and Sunday was a big step in it. The future is very, very bright for that young man, I think he’s going to be a really good football player.”

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Steelers
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