In a game that featured the Steelers dominating the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, one of the largest takeaways was the vision and explosiveness of second-year running back Benny Snell Jr. The Steelers called upon Snell Jr. after starting halfback James Conner had trouble early on toting the rock for his team. Conner was only able to accumulate 8 yards on 5 carries in Pittsburgh’s first two offensive drives and had his ankle wrapped up by trainers after a Steelers field goal in the first quarter.
From that point on, it was time for the former Kentucky Wildcat to showcase his style of play, often referred to as “Benny Snell Football." Snell Jr. was the change of pace that the Steelers offense desperately needed early on in order to get in a rhythm. Establishing the run was clearly the first priority for the Steelers Monday night, and Snell made sure he made his mark. Snell Jr.’s downhill approach slashed the Giants' defense and made them load the box in order to stop the run. Not only did Snell Jr.’s 113 rush yards on 19 carries help move the chains, but it opened throwing lanes for QB Ben Roethlisberger. It was an all-around effort for Snell Jr. as he also made a couple of key blocks that gave the Steelers wideouts ample time to create separation from the young Giants secondary.
In total, starter James Conner was only able to average 1.5 yards per carry. This is a dramatic difference from Snell Jr.’s 5.9 yards per carry. When it came time to close out the game, Mike Tomlin called upon Benny Snell Jr. to seal the deal. Snell Jr. picked up 9 yards on the final drive, and on 4th and 1 he forced the New York defense to stack the box in order to counter his success. The Steelers then handed it off to rookie Chase Claypool on a jet sweep to the left side of the field where he glided past the first down marker uncontested. The Giants had no answer for Benny Snell Jr., and he has forced Pittsburgh’s coaching staff to make a decision.
With Conner being treated for an ankle injury, it will be interesting to see who will line up alongside Roethlisberger for the Week 2 matchup against the Denver Broncos. When asked about Snell Jr.’s game, head coach Mike Tomlin replied nonchalantly, “I wasn't surprised by what he was able to do. He was ready to answer the bell when called upon." Tomlin certainly had confidence in his running back, and Snell Jr. has seemingly already built off of his impressive rookie campaign. Conner will certainly receive more opportunities to prove his worth, but there is another back in Pittsburgh who seems primed to step into a larger role.