John Clay

Benny Snell ready for ‘money time’ with Pittsburgh Steelers

For Benny Snell, it’s almost time to live the dream.

“Money time,” Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher said Tuesday.

The Pittsburgh Steelers open training camp July 26 in Latrobe, Pa. And as a fourth-round selection out of UK, Snell is expected to compete for playing time with one of the sport’s iconic franchises.

“I didn’t need to be higher, I didn’t need to be no lower,” said Snell of his draft round. “I’m happy with where I’m at and where I went. Everybody has their dreams and aspirations. You want to be higher. I feel like my skills could talk here and there. But I’m happy I’m with the Steelers. Perfect fit for Benny Snell.”

First, however, Snell is conducting a series of youth camps, including the Snell Yeah Camp held Tuesday at Lexington Catholic High School, where the kids sported a T-shirt with Snell’s new Steelers’ No. 24.

“It’s important because I wish I had this when I was little,” said Snell after having an individual picture taken with each participant in the camp. “I wish I had someone that I grew up looking to where I’m from or wherever they went to college, I get to look up to somebody and get to meet them and get a word of advice and to get some work in with them. That would have helped me a long way when I was little.”

You might have made something of yourself, a media member joked.

“Yeah,” said Snell, smiling.

Former UK running back Benny Snell of the Pittsburgh Steelers was back in Lexington on Tuesday hosting his Snell Yeah youth football camp at Lexington Catholic High School. Marcus Dorsey

To be sure, Snell has already done plenty. The first UK back in history to rush for over 1,000 yards in his first three seasons, the Ohio native turned pro after helping the Cats to a 10-3 record in his junior campaign. He has spent the summer getting ready for the fall.

“Just training twice a day. Getting my body right,” he said. “I’ve been back home working with Rosie Nix, my fullback. We’ve been getting after it every day. I was looking forward to these camps. These are my breaks, my time off. Getting a little break here and there. But it’s all good.”

He said being with the Steelers for OTA and mini-camp was a weird feeling, seeing players like Ju-Ju Smith, Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Shazier, players he watched growing up. Snell said he feels like a freshman again, filling in on special teams, trying to earn the trust of the veterans.

“The organization is a great organization,” he said. “Coaches, players, it’s a strong brotherhood. They strive to get better every day. That’s where I want to be. I’m glad I’m there.”

Benny Snell (24) worked a drill during a Pittsburgh Steelers mini-camp. Snell was a fourth-round draft pick this year. Keith Srakocic AP

With LeVeon Bell holding out last season, second-year pro James Conner picked up the slack with 973 rushing yards on 215 carries. Bell signed with the New York Jets. Conner, the former University of Pittsburgh star, is No. 1 on the Pittsburgh depth chart. But head coach Mike Tomlin has indicated he would like to lighten Conner’s load, giving some carries to backups Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds and Snell, as well.

Samuels, a second-year pro from North Carolina State, rushed for 142 yards in the Steelers’ regular-season win over eventual Super Bowl champ New England. Edmunds is in his third season out of Maryland. That duo will be competing with Snell to back up Conner.

Did mini-camp give Snell a taste of what “camp camp” will be like?

“Yeah, with no pads,” he said Tuesday. “It’s pads time now.”

Benny Snell, right, put his campers through their paces during Tuesday’s event at Lexington Catholic High School. Marcus Dorsey

Meanwhile, his old teammates at Kentucky will also be putting the pads on. And, same as it ever was, the preseason analysts aren’t giving the Cats much credit.

“I was talking to Terry (Wilson), Lynn (Bowden), all those guys about it (Monday),” Snell said. “It’s all happening again and that’s OK. It’s supposed to be like that. Don’t try to overthink it, don’t think too less of it. Think that this is how it is supposed to happen, and now it’s time for you all to do it all again. You’ve all seen the ropes, now do it again.”

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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