The Steelers continued with their scheduled players and coaches media availability during training camp this week. With the 2020 season being what it is, these media availability times are done virtually. On Wednesday, after hearing from Steelers running back James Conner, running backs coach Eddie Faulkner took questions from the local Pittsburgh media. Faulkner had several comments about the overall group of running backs for the Steelers as reported by Teresa Varley of Steelers.com.
'I look around the entire room and see a lot of talented guys who can help us. I am really excited about the room because of the versatility of all of the guys who are in there.' - @coachfaulk on the running backs— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 12, 2020
Faulkner answered several questions about individual players on the Steelers running back depth chart, and his statements reflect specific questions he was presented.
The Steelers’ first option at the running back position coming into the 2020 season is former Pro Bowler James Conner. With concerns over player opt outs, particularly those with underlying health conditions, many were curious if Conner would forgo the 2020 season being a cancer survivor. But after Conner made the decision to play the upcoming season, Coach Faulkner had a little doubt as to Conner’s dedication to the game.
RB Coach Eddie Faulkner said based on James Conner's previous health situation opting out could have been a possibility, but knowing James' heart he fully expected him to be a full participant because that is how he is built.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 12, 2020
Benny Snell Jr.
One player in particular many are looking to see make a big leap in his second year is Steelers running back Benny Snell. Coming off his rookie season in which he averaged almost 4 yards per carry, Snell is only the sixth Steelers rookie to have more than 100 rushing attempts his rookie year since the 1970s merger. Coach Faulkner noted Snell has done a fantastic job getting his body conditioned and is ready to hit the ground running to do big things for the Steelers in 2020.
Eddie Faulkner has high praise for Benny Snell and notes he's changed his body in the offseason:— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 12, 2020
"I'm excited about Benny. That's a guy that's passionate and loves the game. I feel like he'll hit the ground running this year."
One player who hasn’t been able to be on the field for workouts is running back Jaylen Samuels who is currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 List. Although “a players best ability is there availability” is an ongoing theme for the Steelers and the NFL in general, Coach Faulkner acknowledges if Samuels was going to miss time it is better for it to be now before padded practices begin.
Any time missed and days of worked missed isn't a good thing, but if you are going to miss some time it's better on the front end of this. - Eddie Faulkner on Jaylen Samuels missing time on the reserve/COVID-19 list— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 12, 2020
Faulkner added he talks to him daily, checking in on him.
The Steelers did recently add a new player into the running back room in veteran Wendell Smallwood. Coming to the Steelers via the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team, Smallwood enters the room as the elder statesman as the only player who is older than Smallwood is fullback Derek Watt. Unsure by many if there will be a spot for Smallwood on the Steelers roster, Coach Faulkner talked about what he brings to the team as a veteran presence for the younger players.
Eddie Faulkner on new running back Wendell Smallwood: 'He's a pro. He comes to work every day. He's smart, he understands the urgency involved. He is a great example for some of the younger guys on how you handle your business.'— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 12, 2020
Media availability continues on Thursday as Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will hold his weekly interview. Stay tuned to Behind The Steel Curtain for full coverage as training camp 2020 continues.