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Steelers 2021 Training Camp Battles: The battle between Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland

With the 2021 NFL Draft a thing of the past, we look ahead to some training camp battles facing the Steelers this season.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers are still in the early stages of the 2021 offseason, but with the 2021 NFL Draft over the attention now turns to the regular season. There are steps along the way, mandatory minicamp, Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and training camp, but the position battles which will take shape throughout the offseason are worth discussion.

Sure, things could change between now and the start of training camp. Injuries, acquisitions and players emerging can alter the outcome of these battles, but there will be several key battles taking place. In this series, myself and Dave Schofield will be giving our analysis and prediction for each training camp battle which will unfold at some point this offseason.

Today we take a look at a position/battle for the Steelers’ offense. This battle, which involves two running backs, has already been discussed, in a way, earlier during this series. When we broke down the training camp battle for who will back up Najee Harris there was a lot to decipher. Would Benny Snell be the first off the bench, or would Anthony McFarland be the change of pace back everyone hopes to see?

With that still being a large unknown, this debate will be structured just around the depth chart. Which running back will be the RB2 behind Harris? Benny Snell or Anthony McFarland?

Who wins the battle? Dave and I give our predictions below, but be sure to let us know what you think in the poll below, and be sure to explain your vote in the comment section!

Jeff Hartman

Analysis: I know this has been discussed in a previous article, but there is a lot to unpack here. Would the Steelers dare entertain a running back by committee approach and infuse more Snell than anyone expects? What will McFarland’s role be with his old coach at Maryland now the offensive coordinator? Will McFarland be the third down back fans have clamored for seemingly since Mewelde Moore played for the black and gold? A lot to decipher here...

Prediction: I feel Benny Snell has been given a pretty good chance at proving to the organization what he can do. Sadly, it hasn’t been pretty. As I type the previous sentence, I understand Snell might not have gotten a fair shake considering he played in the Randy Fichtner lack of running game era. Will Tomlin give Snell a new shot with a new offensive line, new line coach and a new coordinator? Or will this be the Harris and McFarland show, with Snell only spelling Harris when necessary? McFarland has the lone skill neither Snell or Harris possess, break away speed. He is a “give them a glimmer of daylight” running back where he can take it to the house on any given play. As I continue to play mental gymnastics with myself, I have to believe this will be the Harris and McFarland show in 2021. Snell will be used, but sparingly or in case of emergency. Otherwise, McFarland will be given every chance possible to show he is the lightning in a bottle type back everyone was excited to see when he was drafted in 2020.

Dave Schofield

Analysis: As Jeff said already, this battle has already been covered somewhat previously. While Benny Snell has been active every game he was healthy, Anthony McFarland found himself on the inactive list a number of times as a rookie. Additionally, Benny Snell adds the special teams factor while Anthony McFarland had exactly zero special teams snaps as a rookie. So does this come down to solely their running ability or what else they bring to the team?

Prediction: I don’t know if the winner of this battle is going to be more about the player then it is the scheme. Benny Snell required a different type of blocking by the offensive line based on his running style which the Steelers were unable to do successfully last season outside of Week 1 (cough... cough... Zach Banner). I’m not even sure exactly what kind of style would be better fitted for McFarland as he barely got a chance to do anything in 2020. Last time we covered this topic I went with Benny Snell, but this time I’m actually leaning toward McFarland. If he’s not the second option, I don’t think he gets a helmet on game day as RB3 needs to do more than just go on the field for 10 snaps a game in the backfield. I still think Benny Snell has a spot on the team if he’s not the primary backup because of his special teams contributions. I’m not really sold either way on where this is going to fall as I want to see what this offensive line can do first and which runner would be better suited behind them.


Who wins this 2021 Steelers Training Camp Battle?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Anthony McFarland
    (508 votes)
  • 30%
    Benny Snell
    (228 votes)
736 votes total Vote Now

Other Training Camp Battle Breakdowns: