Steelers 2-a-days: Rookies Benny Snell, Sutton Smith seek niche, roles |

Steelers 2-a-days: Rookies Benny Snell, Sutton Smith seek niche, roles

Chris Adamski
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr. during an organized team activity session May 21, 2019.

Editor’s note: From now until the first practice of training camp at Saint Vincent College, the Trib will be running through the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster, assessing each player’s outlook for the 2019 season. The breakdown will go through the roster in mostly-alphabetical order, (at least) two per day, between June 14 and July 26.


Experience: Rookie

Contract status: $670,517 cap hit in 2019 in first season of four-year rookie contract

2019 outlook: Smith is an intriguing player. He was highly productive in college (29 sacks the past two seasons), but he is undersized and not projectable as an NFL pass rusher using measurables and traditional scouting. It’s cliché, but the old-school football coach would call Smith, “a football player,” which is probably how the Steelers see him, seeing as how they drafted him early in the sixth round. The Steelers already used him at fullback, in addition to outside linebacker. Inside linebacker might be his best fit, truth be told, but late during organized team activities, Smith said he had not yet repped there. It adds up to Smith being one of the more closely-watched players in camp. Will he play fullback? Outside linebacker? Inside linebacker? How good can this “football player” be on special teams?


Experience: Rookie

Contract status: $670,517 cap hit in 2019 in first season of four-year rookie contract

2019 outlook: Playing in what is regarded as the best conference with the best defenses (SEC), Snell rushed for 3,873 yards and 48 touchdowns in three years at Kentucky. And the way he did it — the NFL’s draft page for Snell called him a “downhill grinder” — does not necessarily seem to project Snell as the type of running back ideal for a third-down or subpackage role. But with James Conner coming off a Pro Bowl season and Jaylen Samuels having proved as a rookie he can fill in when needed, where does that leave Snell? The Steelers haven’t had this type of battle for at an offensive skill position since maybe before Le’Veon Bell was drafted in 2013. Can Snell siphon carries away from Conner? Wrestle the No. 2 job away from Samuels? Carve out a niche as a short-yardage back or late-game “closer?” The Steelers don’t make a habit of using fourth-round draft capital on a player without a role in mind, so it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.

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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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