Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. disdained, “Putting on the dog.” In 21st century terms, “putting on the dog” might translate to “strutting your stuff” or doing anything that wasn’t modest.
He expected his sons to follow suit, instructing them “Don’t drive a Cadillac, drive a Buick.” When Art Sr. went to Philadelphia to visit John Rooney (or perhaps it was Pat), his son tried to steer his father around the house in a way that made sure his father didn’t see that he’d had a pool installed. His father found the pool. The Chief was not pleased.
Most Steelers fans have probably never heard the expression “putting on the dog,” but they’ve absorbed The Chief’s philosophy all the same – We don’t like it when players show boat.
So when the Steelers drafted Benny Snell Jr. in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft and Snell arrived in Pittsburgh talking about “Benny Snell Football” it left a bad taste in the mouth of many fans. A taste that still lingers for many, if not most.
Now that Benny Snell is about to become a free agent, are Steelers fans about to get their pallets clean?
Capsule Profile of Benny Snell’s Career with the Steelers
Benny Snell got it backwards. Players who live at the bottom of depth charts are supposed to do well in spot duty but struggle when they get a full audition.
- Snell’s done the opposite.
In 2019 he got 75 yards in his first extensive action in the Steelers win over the Chargers, 98 in his first start against the Bengals and over 100 in the season finale against the Ravens. He clocked in over 100 in relief of James Conner in the 2020 opener, and ran well in extensive action in wins against the Ravens and losses to the Bengals.
Injuries limited him to spot duty in 2021, and he was as he’s always been when his carries have been limited – uninspiring. In 2022 Snell mostly played special teams, but he did get 60 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Colts.
The Case for the Steelers Resigning Benny Snell
That win over the Colts will always be Kenny Pickett’s first come from behind win. But Benny Snell’s rushing laid the foundation that made that win possible. Snell might not be a starting caliber running back, but he’s done enough to show he can be a good number two back and most teams would beg for a number 3 back of his talents.
The Case Against the Steelers Resigning Benny Snell
The Steelers don’t have a lot of salary cap space. They’re not in dire straits, but Omar Khan is going to need to make moves even if the Steelers are to take a conservative approach to free agency.
Benny Snell is simply a luxury the Steelers cannot afford.
Curtain’s Call on the Steelers and Benny Snell
The NFL might be quarterback driven, pass happy league. Well, there’s no “might” about it. But I remain an unapologetic believer that your running back depth chart must be at least three players deep. As I asked rhetorically after the Colts win, “Does anyone think the Steelers win that game if the 2022 equivalents of Stevan Ridley and/or Fitzgerald Toussaint are playing instead of Benny Snell?”
And if Mike Tomlin may be warming to staffing better depth at running back, doing so with a veteran on a second contract may be a different question altogether. And the Steelers have already signed Anthony McFarland to a “Futures Contract” so Anthony McFarland’s name may already be penciled into that role.
Moreover, Steelers top two running back slots are held by Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, and they’ve earned their status on merit.
So you have to ask, would Benny Snell be interested in coming back to Pittsburgh as a third stringer? Probably not.
At the end of the day, while keeping Benny Snell in the Black and Gold is ideal, expect him to take “Benny Snell football” to one of the NFL’s other 31 teams.
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