The Steelers are starting to find some success on the ground. Here’s how Benny Snell is showing why James Conner shouldn’t get a second contract in Pittsburgh.
While Conner was voted to the Pro Bowl a season ago and is no doubt a fan favorite, Benny Snell’s recent surge in play shows exactly why most running backs shouldn’t receive a big second contract – including James Conner.
Conner was an excellent replacement for Le’Veon Bell last season after the two-time All-Pro running back decided to sit out the year and await his new contract with a different franchise. Conner averaged a respectable 4.5 yards per carry on the ground in 2018 and shocked people with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
However, even after rushing for nearly 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games a season ago, we are seeing more and more why running backs aren’t getting paid.
Benny Snell is a 21-year old, day three draft choice who is starting to show up big for the Steelers. Though he touched the ball just 6 times through the first 6 games of his career, he has since been carrying the load. Snell now has 65 carries for 279 yards and a touchdown. His 4.3 yards per attempt is a half-yard per carry more than Conner this season (3.8), and Snell has been seen dragging tacklers on some tough sledding through the middle this season.
The Steelers won all three games where Snell was asked to carry the ball more than any other running back. While this is a small sample, all of these factors show why most running backs shouldn’t receive extensive second contracts.
Pittsburgh tried their best to retain Le’Veon Bell before his departure for New York, and the Steelers dodged a bullet that he didn’t take their offer. Bell was incredible earlier in his career, but most running backs have incredibly short shelf-lives, and Bell’s play was starting to decline.
Over his past three seasons, Bell has seen his yards per carry dip from 4.9 to 4.0 to 3.2. While some of this may be due to joining a football team with a poor offensive line, this is just another testament as to why running backs are only going to be as effective as the players blocking for them.
Benny Snell is still very young and he has a long career ahead of him. While I don’t necessarily think he is going to be a spectacular player for the Steelers, he has shown enough for Pittsburgh to make James Conner expendable.
The Steelers are a team that typically doesn’t have much cap space from year to year. If we can save a large portion of the cap by letting Conner walk after his contract, that may be the way to go. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but it could be the best business decision for the Steelers in this situation.