Former University of Kentucky football star Benny Snell got his first taste of live-game action in the NFL on Friday night and the record-setting rookie made a big impact.
Snell made his debut for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their 30-28 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the preseason opener for both teams. He made the key play on a scoring drive that put the Steelers ahead 27-16 early in the fourth quarter. With Pittsburgh facing third-and-20 in Tampa Bay territory, Snell caught a short pass and turned it into a 20-yard gain for a first down, driving through two defenders on his way to the 10-yard line. Two plays later, rookie receiver Tevin Jones caught an 8-yard touchdown from Devlin Hodges.
“I was really itching for the end zone,” Snell told reporters after the game. “But it was a long down-and-distance, so I’m just glad I got the first down.”
Snell saw plenty of snaps on Friday but it was tough sledding for him in the running game. He rushed 13 times for 26 yards with a long of five yards. He also caught two passes for a total of 25 yards and played in every special teams package.
“I felt like it was a pretty good game,” Snell said. “I think I did a good job on all four special teams that I was on. My opportunities that presented themselves on offense, I felt like I tried to fall forward on my runs, stay solid in pass protection. It was a good day to me.”
After becoming UK’s career leader in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and 100-yard games, Snell skipped his final year of eligibility with the Wildcats and was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He entered Friday’s game listed third on Pittsburgh’s running back depth chart behind James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.
Snell’s UK teammate, safety Mike Edwards, also made his NFL debut on Friday. Edwards, who was selected by the Buccaneers in the third round of this year’s draft, made two tackles.
The Steelers next host the Kansas City Chiefs on Aug. 17 at 7:30 p.m. They’ll kick off the regular season on Sept. 8 at defending Super Bowl champion New England. That game will be nationally televised on NBC at 8:20 p.m.