The Pittsburgh Steelers love their running backs. They always have, dating back to Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis, and always will. But throughout almost all of those eras, there has always been a feature back. There were obviously others on the roster, but there was the running back, and then other backs.
But could the Steelers in 2019 not just go with a more running back by committee approach, but also run some two back sets? This would jog the memory of the older Steelers fans who used to watch Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier dice up defenses while standing near each other behind Terry Bradshaw.
Fans have been clamoring for this to go into practice for years, and according to Sarah K. Spencer of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the team is at least looking at doing just that with James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.
“We did a little bit of it [last season], but we didn’t really run it in a game, so I guess this year we’re going to try and put that a little more in the offense,” Samuels said, via Spencer. “I think that could be kind of special with me and [Conner] in the backfield. Me and him in the game, period. We’re just building on from that right now. . . . He’s more of a runner and a catcher, as well, but I can get outside and run routes, as well. To have that dual threat with me and him in the game, it could be really scary for defenses.”
This is an approach which could do more than just frustrate defenses, but also help keep Conner fresh and healthy for the duration of a 16-game season, something he has yet to do in his NFL career. Either way, Conner is expecting the team to do more than practice this two-back set in 2019.
“It’s something we’ve had in for a little while, but I think we’re going to use it a little more this year, and I’m excited about it because we’re both really talented,” Conner said. “So it kind of puts the defense in a mix of who they really want to pay attention to because he’s shown what he can do.”
The wild card in this scenario is rookie fourth round pick Benny Snell Jr. Snell, the former Kentucky product, is coming off an amazing college career, and is hoping to bring “Benny Snell Football” to the city of Pittsburgh.
Snell’s downhill style is a perfect compliment to the type of runners both Conner and Samuels are at the current moment. When you add Snell into the mix, you have to wonder if the Steelers could have even more variables in this multi-back equation than just Conner and Samuels.
The Steelers may have just opened up Pandora’s box heading into the 2019 regular season, and although the team may never run these two back sets as fans want, it will at least give opposing defenses something to think about as they approach a game vs. the black-and-gold.