The Pittsburgh Steelers are making a habit of drafting players of pedigree from football families. Their fourth-round pick, running back Benny Snell of Kentucky, certainly fits that mold.
Snell has strong bloodlines. His father, Benjamin Sr., was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1998. His great uncle, Matt, ran for 121 yards for the New York Jets in their Super Bowl III victory over the Baltimore Colts.
But Snell believes he was born to be a Steeler.
“I felt in the bottom of my heart this is where I belonged because of my style,” Snell said, describing himself as a hard-nosed player who grinds for every yard. “My style of running is Steelers football, Pittsburgh football.”
1. Workhorse: Snell rushed for 1,000 yards or more in each of his three seasons at Kentucky, setting school records with 3,873 career yards and 48 touchdowns.
Snell rushed for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman, 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore and 1,449 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall.
Safe to say, he has a knack for finding the end zone.
“That’s what I do,” Snell said. “It was in the blood.”
2. Passion project: Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner was impressed with Snell, especially the way he handled questions about his pass-catching ability.
“That,” Faulkner said, “was a pleasant surprise.”
Faulkner said that running out of the wildcat showcased Snell’s hand-eye coordination and his ability to make quick reads as a runner.
“It’s very evident when you sit down with this young man how much he has passion for the game, how much he loves it and how much he likes being around it,” Faulkner said. “We were very interested in finding someone who had a passion and just loves football, and that’s Benny Snell.
“As you turn on his tape and see how he plays the game, he mirrors that same amount of passion. He plays physical, he plays hard. Quite honestly, he represents the Steeler brand as you watch him as a football player.”
3. Lots of leg room: By allowing former All-Pro Le’Veon Bell to sign with the Jets as a free agent, the Steelers had a need for another running back.
But they invested in the position for the third consecutive draft, taking Snell after spending a third-round pick on James Conner in 2016 and a fifth-rounder on Jaylen Samuels last year. All three backs will be age 24 or younger at the start of the season.
That’s not my main concern. All three are physical backs who are strong in short-yardage and goal-line situations and solid receivers, even if they aren’t at Bell’s level.
So, Snell fits the mold of a Steelers back.
But it would have been nice to see them find a back with breakaway speed that could provide a complement to Conner and Samuels instead of looking like a clone.