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Steelers Turn to Snell as Featured Running Back with Conner Out

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have named Benny Snell Jr. their featured running back while James Conner is out due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Snell’s Time at The University of Kentucky

After graduating from Westerville Central High School in Westerville, Ohio, Snell moved on to play college football at Kentucky. There, he broke or tied 14 school records.

In his first year at Kentucky, Snell was the leading freshman scorer in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) with 78 points and became the first freshman in school history to have 1,000 rushing yards.

As a sophomore, Snell led the Wildcats in carries (262), rushing yards (1,333), rushing touchdowns (19) and rushing yards per game (102.5). He also ended the regular season leading the SEC in rushing yards (1,318) and touchdowns (18).

In 2018, Snell was named a team captain and to the First-Team All-SEC. His 26 rushes for 144 yards and two touchdowns earned him the MVP title after the VRBO Citrus Bowl, which Kentucky won 27-24.

After his junior year, Snell went on to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 122nd overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The Start of Snell’s Career in Pittsburgh

The start of Snell’s career in Pittsburgh has been relatively slow. With Conner out for the majority of the 2019 season due to injury, Snell took over as the starting running back.

Last season, he rushed for 426 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 3.9 yards per carry. These numbers are reflective of a struggling Pittsburgh offense in the absence of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Despite this, head coach Mike Tomlin has consistently praised the young running back.

“Benny is a tough-minded kid, he’s a competitor,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s the thing that attracted me to him when he was down there doing it for [the] Wildcats. I watched that guy tote that load and beat the Gators. And I understand how tough those SEC wins are. For a guy in that position, it just spoke about his football character, his toughness, and he’s displayed that since he’s been with us.”

Snell has not had many chances to prove himself as a capable running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that could change soon.

Steelers Name Snell Featured Back Against Ravens

On Sunday, Tomlin announced in a press conference that Benny Snell will see a significant amount of playing time on Wednesday night.

“I have no reservation about Benny Snell as a featured runner,” Tomlin said.

In Week 17 of the 2019 season, Snell rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries against Baltimore.

Snell could have another big game against the Ravens on Wednesday night with several defensive starters out for Baltimore due to COVID-19. The Ravens currently have more than 18 positive COVID-19 cases among players and personnel.

Along with Snell, rookie running back Anthony McFarland Jr. could see some playing time. The two are currently the only healthy running backs on the Steelers 53-man roster.

Trey Edmunds was recently placed on the Reserve/Injured List with a hamstring injury, while Jaylen Samuels is out with a quadricep injury.

In last week’s game against the Jaguars, Snell scored his first touchdown since Week 7.

Barring any more COVID-19 setbacks, the Steelers are set to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 2 at 3:40 p.m. This will be the second time the teams play this season.

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