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Steelers News: Jaylen Samuels benefits from Stevan Ridley’s fumble, and shows promise

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Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won three straight games, and have finally started to “stack wins”. After their 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns in Week 8, the team has to move on from the win quickly as they now prepare for the Baltimore Ravens, on the road, in Week 9.

Something I did last season and I’m going to start again is the Black-and-gold Links article.

This is an article where I take stories from quality news sources across the Internet and add them here for your viewing pleasure. I won’t be posting the entire articles, but I’ll link each story and author so that you can read the full article.

Today we talk about how the ill-timed fumble by running back Stevan Ridley opened the door for rookie Jaylen Samuels to see some playing time. He didn’t just see time, but he played well in mop up duty for the black-and-gold. Could he now be the primary backup behind the workhorse, James Conner? This will be one of those minor story lines which is worth keeping an eye on this week.

Let’s get to the news:

Stevan Ridley’s fumble opens door for Jaylen Samuels’ first NFL carries for Steelers

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Every week of his rookie season, Jaylen Samuels has “gotten a hat,” been activated for gameday and had certain plays drawn up for him in that particular gameplan.

For the most part though, on offense, the Pittsburgh Steelers running back merely stood on the sidelines.

Sunday during the Steelers’ 33-18 win against the Cleveland Browns, Samuels’ turn finally came. The fifth-round pick from North Carolina State played extensively in the second half and got his first four NFL carries.

“I am just waiting on my opportunity, and when my number gets called I just want to make sure I go in there and execute the best that I can,” the 6-foot, 225-pound North Carolina State product said after the game. “So that’s what I tried to do today.”

Samuels was in uniform for all six prior games this season but he did not get into one of the games; all but two of his snaps until Sunday had come on special teams. But Samuels served as James Conner’s backup after veteran Stevan Ridley fumbled on the Steelers’ first drive of the third quarter.

Ridley’s fumble was his first since 2013 when he played for New England. It apparently was enough for – at least on Sunday – Samuels to finally scale him on the depth chart as the No. 2 to James Conner. He played seven snaps on offense and gained 17 yards on four carries.

Steelers teammates say CB Joe Haden getting better with age

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The 2007 Florida recruiting class is remembered as one of the greatest incoming classes in college football history. It produced a dozen NFL players, including five who have made the Pro Bowl.

But among all that talent, one man stood out. More than Cam Newton, more than Aaron Hernandez, more than a certain set of twins who became longtime NFL interior offensive linemen.

“Joe,” one of those twins, Maurkice Pouncey, said, “he was a legend as soon as he walked in at UF.”

Pouncey, the Steelers center and twin brother of Dolphins center Mike Pouncey, was talking about cornerback Joe Haden, his teammate then and now.

“Joe was the best athlete I think any of us have ever seen.”

In 2007, Haden became the first true freshman to start at cornerback in the history of the Florida program. Three years later, he was drafted seventh overall by the Cleveland Browns.

Two years after that, L.J. Fort was a rookie linebacker with the Browns.

“What I remember about him is how athletic he is,” Fort, now with the Steelers, said. “We were playing basketball, and he’s one of the littlest guys. But he would run it. One time, he did a crossover, drove the lane and rose up off one leg and dunked it, and I was like, ‘That’s crazy.’ ”

Another former Florida teammate perhaps put it best.

“He’s the freakish of freak athletes who can do anything,” Steelers linebacker Jon Bostic said.

The Steelers, of course, recognized that when they pounced on the opportunity to sign Haden after he was released by the Browns late in August 2017.

But the Haden they got, by his own admission, wasn’t the “freak” with the ankle-breaking crossover.

“I think I can probably tell,” Haden said. “I’ve slowed down a little bit.”

But a funny thing happened to Haden in losing (some of) that 4.4 speed and 38-inch vertical leap: His Steelers teammates say he is a better cornerback.

“He’s a lot better,” said receiver Antonio Brown, who went head-to-head with Haden many times earlier in their careers. “He’s a lot heftier, way better, smarter, more aggressive.”

Said Bostic: “We do a lot of things with him, and he’s showed up big this year. He has done so many things for us as a defense.”

Where would the Steelers pass defense be without Haden? He Julio Jones, arguably the league’s best receiver, to no catches through three quarters of the Steelers’ win over Atlanta earlier this month. A week later against Cincinnati, he was the biggest reason Pro Bowler A.J. Green was limited.

While his big-play skills might have have diminished — Haden had 16 interceptions over his first 52 NFL games but has one since joining the Steelers — he is making up for his aging body with his brain.

“He’s got a really good understanding of the game and where he should be (and) when he should be there,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “So he looks like he’s a little bit quicker or faster, when maybe he’s not. But he looks like that, and I’m OK with him looking like that.”

In the Steelers locker room, Haden is a respected leader with a composed and guru-like presence.

“It’s how he carries himself,” Pouncey said. “He’s very professional, very grownup-ish.”

Mark Madden: Only geography keeping Steelers-Browns a rivalry

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

The rivalry between the Steelers and Cleveland Browns was founded on geography: The cities are 132.9 miles apart.

Now, that’s the only thing defining it as a rivalry.

The games used to be meaningful and heated. But, in this series, each team has taken a turn as the windshield and as the bug.

In the ’50s and ’60s, the Browns were 31-9 against the Steelers.

Since Cleveland returned to the NFL as the “new” Browns in 1999, the Steelers hold a 33-6-1 edge.

The Browns used to win all the time. That’s hard to believe if you’re not a member of AARP.

The Browns have more championships than the Steelers: eight for Cleveland, six for Pittsburgh. (Four of Cleveland’s championships were in the old All-American Football Conference. Their last NFL crown was 1964. The Browns never have played in a Super Bowl. But the occasional 0-16 season makes you less picky when you parse your past.)

The Browns were once football’s reigning dynasty. Like the Steelers in the ’70s and New England now.

The Browns won all eight of their championships between 1949 and ‘64. They had Otto Graham, the premier quarterback of his time. Then they had Jim Brown, the best running back ever.

Their coach, Paul Brown, was so legendary they named the team after him. Chuck Noll was great. But the team isn’t called the Pittsburgh Nolls.

But Art Modell bought the Browns in 1963. He fired Paul Brown. The Browns got bad, then moved to Baltimore. It fell apart quickly.

In the ’70s, the Steelers grabbed the torch, elevating as quickly as the Browns faltered.

The Steelers had been a joke. They made just one playoff appearance before 1972.

Founder Art Rooney Sr. is a legend and was the team’s patriarch. That’s because we’ve ignored that he was a terrible football guy.

But Dan Rooney took control. The Steelers were a juggernaut during the ’70s, have been mostly good since and are good now.

But the Browns still have more championships than the Steelers. Just sayin’.

The Browns went 0-16 last season but are a bit better now. (That became true the moment they tied the Steelers in Week 1. The bar was set extremely low.)

The Browns have a dominant performer in defensive end Myles Garrett. He could be NFL Defensive Player of the Year if the Browns didn’t stink. Garrett might be the best pass rusher in football. (That includes the All-American Football Conference.)

Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield is far from polished, but his energy and potential are undeniable. Mayfield didn’t play in Week 1. He’s not yet Otto Graham, but he’s better than Tyrod Taylor. Look out, Steelers.

But why do the Browns keep trading good players?

They kept pothead receiver Josh Gordon while he was suspended. Now Gordon can play, so they sent him to New England where he’s assumed a meaningful role (like so many misfits before him).

They signed running back Carlos Hyde in free agency. Good get. Then the Browns swapped Hyde to Jacksonville. (That reflects faith in rookie back Nick Chubb, which seems justified so far.)

The Browns are 2-4-1 and have played four overtime games. Losing by a closer score isn’t necessarily impressive.

The Browns and Steelers tied 21-21 in Week 1 because James Conner fumbled away a Steelers win. We ignore Conner’s inconsistency because Le’Veon Bell won’t show up.

Ben Roethlisberger didn’t get sacked in each of the last two games. But Garrett had two sacks and a forced fumble in Week 1, and he’s more than a match for Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, the weakest link on a very strong offensive line.

But the Steelers will win. They always beat Cleveland. Except when they tie.

If the Steelers lose, their season is ruined. The toughest part of it is still to be played, and you don’t deserve to make the playoffs if you go 0-1-1 against the Browns. Baltimore and Cincinnati are bigger rivals. But for the Steelers, today is must-win.

Not to worry: Roethlisberger is 10-0 at home against Cleveland. (Terry Bradshaw was 11-0 at home vs. the Browns.)

The Browns’ season got off to a rousing start when they were made to look like a bunch of idiots on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” (That wasn’t much of a stretch for coach Hue Jackson.)

But that’s the purpose of “Hard Knocks.” Stupidity sells.

HBO would make any team into imbeciles. The ‘72 Dolphins would be presented as the dumbest undefeated team of all time.

Just as ABBA had its Waterloo, this game against the Steelers could be bad news for Jackson.