Jaylen Samuels did not see much action as a rookie last year, but the Steelers intend on changing that this year.
In the midst of Le’Veon Bell sitting out all of last season, James Conner became the workhorse back for the Pittsburgh Steelers with 215 carries in 13 games. That left little for Jaylen Samuels (56 carries while playing 20.4 percent of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps), as the team continued to embraced the workhorse back model.
In the three games Conner missed last year, Samuels started each and averaged 5.3 yards per carry while putting up 328 total yards over that span. The highlight was a 19-carry, 142-yard effort against the New England Patriots in Week 15. As expected, Samuels’ snap percentages in those three games went 80, 62 and 71.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Samuels is envisioning a bigger role for himself in 2019.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be something special put into the offense,” Samuels said. “They will have us start off in the backfield or I can start out wide or motion out.”
To go with his 56 carries for 256 yards as a rookie (42 for 223 over the aforementioned three-week stretch), Samuels added 26 receptions (on 29 targets) for 199 yards and three touchdowns. He believes the Steelers want more from him, and the hiring of Eddie Faulkner, his former running backs coach at NC State, seems to confirm it.
During his career at NC State, Samuels as a jack-of-all trades while being listed as a running back, wide receiver and a tight end. He had 201 receptions for 1,851 yards and 19 touchdowns to go with 1,107 career rushing yards (6.1 yards per carry). He finished top-10 in the ACC in rushing touchdowns as a sophomore in 2015 (nine) and as a senior in 2017 (12), and top-10 in the conference in receiving touchdowns as a sophomore and a junior (seven each season). He also averaged 23.7 yards per kickoff return (albeit on only nine returns) as a senior.
Conner replaced Bell capably last year, but with Antonio Brown gone the Steelers have another significant void to fill in their offense. Putting Samuels on the field more, and surely putting his versatility to use, seems to be a piece of the plan to offset that loss.