By LARRY VAUGHT
While other NFL teams obviously worried about Benny Snell’s 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine or perceived lack of burst to break long runs, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw a player “capable of changing a culture” and picked him in the fourth round of the NFL draft Saturday with the 122nd overall pick.
Snell broke or tied 14 UK records and became the school’s all-time leader rusher (3,873 yards) as well as the all-time leader in touchdowns (48), rushing touchdowns (48) and 100-yard rushing games (19). He was the first UK player ever to have three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
He ranked in the top 10 nationally in rushing in 2018 with 1,449 yards after being considered a “mid-level” recruit coming out of high school. Yet he’s now the 12th all-time leading rusher in SEC history and trails only Herschel Walker (49) for most rushing touchdowns prior to his senior season in SEC history.
Snell and Walker are the only two SEC players to rush for at least 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns in their first three seasons (Snell is third in SEC history in rushing touchdowns despite bypassing his senior season to go to the NFL).
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin told ESPN his team didn’t “over analyze” picking Snell.
“We just really liked Benny Snell. He is a good football player who we thought was a central figure in a culture change there at Kentucky,” Tomlin said. “That guy had those guys extremely competitive and they kicked a lot of butt in the SEC.
“Everyone you talked down there formally and informally talked about him being an energy bringer, a catalyst He is the type of guy that is capable of changing a culture and we were really attracted to that along with his run talents.”