The Pittsburgh Steelers have now won five straight games and continue to “stack wins.” After their 52-21 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, the team now has a chance to rest and relax and prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11.
Today in the black-and-gold links article, we talk about how Jaylen Samuels was able to show some flashes in his first extended period of play as an NFL player. Not only did he score his first touchdown of his career, but he did it in style, helicoptering his way into the endzone as he was being hit.
There was more to his performance than meets the eye...
Let’s get to the news:
Steelers’ Jaylen Samuels relishes 1st extensive NFL action, 1st touchdown
By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Jaylen Samuels entered Thursday night’s game with an NFL regular-season résumé that included all of 15 offensive snaps, five carries, no receptions and no touchdowns.
Did he emerge from the Pittsburgh Steelers’ dominating victory with a much more prominent role going forward?
“I’m feeling more comfortable as the season is going on,” Samuels said after the Steelers’ 52-21 win against the Carolina Panthers. “And l’m looking forward to it going up from here.”
Samuels had eight touches (five rushes and three catches) for 29 yards from scrimmage – including a 6-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger on the first play of the fourth quarter that served as something of an announcement of Samuels’ arrival in the NFL as the second half of his rookie season was getting underway.
A fifth-round pick, Samuels had 47 touchdowns in his career North Carolina State.
“I’d seen the end zone a lot in my college career,” Samuels said, “so to see it in the NFL for the first time, it was a beautiful thing. So hopefully it keeps riding up from here.”
Samuels’ career figures to continue ascending – but how high? And how quickly? In some ways, his first notable NFL game comes at a time in which his rookie season is at something of a crossroads due to circumstances out of his control.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that by the time the Steelers play their next game, Samuels is their featured back. It’s also entirely possible, though, that over the next week he could be demoted down a peg of the Steelers’ running back depth chart.
The arrival of Le’Veon Bell could mean the latter; a poor prognosis within concussion protocol for James Conner could lead to the former.
The reality for the near future of Samuels’ Steelers career is probably somewhere in the middle.
“I mean I just come to work every day; I don’t really worry about any of that,” Samuels said, though he did add a little later that he “definitely” saw his more extensive action Thursday as an “audition” for even more work.
A tight end/fullback/wide receiver in college, the 6-0, 225-pounds Samuels was drafted by the Steelers to be a running back. That’s the position room in which he spends his time, and that’s where he most often lines up.
“I have been in the running back (room) doing a lot of stuff just strictly running back,” Samuels said, “but they also have splitting out some, motioning me out of the backfield, getting me mismatches on DBs and linebackers just getting me to run routes from the slot or from (outside) receiver. So they are doing a lot of different things with me.”
Kevin Gorman: Steelers offense stole the show, but defense played starring role
By: Kevin Gorman, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers hung half a hundred points on the Carolina Panthers, but the biggest development was not Ben Roethlisberger’s five touchdown throws or his perfect passer rating.
Strange as it sounds in a 52-21 victory – their fifth consecutive – the play of the game Thursday night at Heinz Field came when the Steelers’ defense produced a turnover for a touchdown.
“That pick-six changed the whole game for us,” Steelers inside linebacker Jon Bostic said. “We got that momentum and kept rolling with it. That was big. Anytime you can score on defense, there’s a high chance you can win the game.”
After the Panthers opened with a 75-yard scoring drive, the Steelers made sideline adjustments. Their focus was on putting pressure on Cam Newton in the pocket, forcing the Carolina quarterback to give up the ball on the zone read and taking their shot at getting a tackle for loss.
Thirteen seconds after the Steelers tied the game, Newton tried to sell a play-action fake from his own 12-yard line. T.J. Watt didn’t buy it, wrapped his arms around the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder in the end zone.
Newton tried to slip the sack by throwing a sidearm pass, but Vince Williams was waiting in the middle of the field. The inside linebacker intercepted the throw and returned it 17 yards for his first career touchdown to give the Steelers a seven-point lead.
“It was just a domino effect,” Newton said. “We wanted to start fast, scored on the first drive and then, all of a sudden … They had a plan coming in and it was very clear what their plan was.”
The Steelers held the NFL’s No. 2 rushing offense to 95 yards on 22 carries – 49 yards below the Panthers’ average – and 242 total yards. The pressure got to Carolina, which converted only 36 percent (4 of 11) of its third-down attempts and punted five times.
That was by design, as Watt called Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s game plan “well thought-out.” They were willing to bend but not break against running back Christian McCaffrey, who rushed 14 times for 77 yards and had five catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns. But they wanted to stop Newton at all costs.
“We had a short week but we had a good game plan,” Watt said. “We knew anytime you have a zone read, they’ve got two options: They’re either going to give or keep it. If you go after (Newton), he’s got to give it every single time or he’s going to get a TFL.
“We just made him give it every time.”
Ben Roethlisberger has Steelers playing like team possessed
By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
The liveliest party of the year just took place in Heinz Field, where they danced so hard in the end zone that they ran out of touchdown celebrations, and that’s when they weren’t throwing Cam Newton to the turf.
The Pittsburgh Steelers weren’t lying when they said they were just getting started.
“That team wanted to come in here and embarrass us,” Steelers guard Ramon Foster said. “We just answered the call.”
The 52-21 pounding of the Panthers on Thursday tied for the most points allowed in Carolina history and showed that the Steelers look ready to make their own history. Carolina last gave up 52 points on Christmas Eve in 2000 against the Oakland Raiders.
If Ben Roethlisberger can continue to deliver masterpieces like this against a good defense, the Steelers -- winners of five straight -- might have their best chance at a Super Bowl since the early Mike Tomlin years. The entire offense feels the good vibes when Roethlisberger “is heaving it like that,” Foster said.
Roethlisberger finished 22-of-25 passing for 328 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the third such game of his career. He hit every throw, as if tossing into a big net. The Steelers worked the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger’s specialty, on a short week, and the usually stout Panthers looked uneasy throughout.
Roethlisberger didn’t need an exotic explanation for his exotic play.
“When you convert third downs and score in the red zone, good things happen,” said Roethlisberger, whose offense converted 8 of 11 third downs and 4 of 4 red zone trips. “It always starts up front. You can say what you want about the skill guys, but we’re nothing without them up front.”