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How Jaylen Samuels can be just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers offense

The Steelers newest offensive weapon could be a game changer.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the Pittsburgh Steelers draft class, outside of the Terrell Edmunds pick, there seemed to be significant value overall in the draft. However, on my big board and overall, Jaylen Samuels was the best value. Graded to be a early third rounder by me, I found Samuels to be the most intriguing offensive prospect in the draft. It is not because he is necessarily the best, or the most explosive athlete in the draft, but what it is a lock and key fit for the Steelers.

Samuels is not only a RB, but a WR, TE, and FB. Never doubt what he can add, but also who the guy is overall. Samuels is the most versatile player in the draft. He can move chains, he can run routes, and he can run out of the backfield. There is not much more you could ask of the guy. It inherently should find him snaps due to this versatility, so let’s see how he fits within the offense.

What exactly is Jaylen Samuels?

An overall report on what Jaylen Samuels is should give it away. Samuels is an experienced route runner and can create separation on short throws because of it. This is an essential skill because it allows Samuels to work effectively out of the slot and out of the backfield. His separation can be mitigated somewhat when he is actually asked to run more of a real route, but so is Le’Veon Bell’s.

Samuels looks like Le’veon Bell in some ways, but he actually looks more athletic. He has some impressive burst, compared to how he tested and his size, and he will impress on tape when he hits the corner at top speed. He is pretty shifty too, although he does not exactly run through contact, he is not afraid of it, and has some incredibly strong hands. He catches the football with his hands, not his body, and always holds on through traffic. Here is his testing for reference.

The results are not bad, but on tape you see he is a legit athlete. Right now I would project Samuels to be a running back, but someone who plays in the slot. I am suggesting he could probably cut into Bell’s time a bit, not only because he is such an effective player from the slot, but also because he can do so many things. In addition to that, Randy Fichtner likes to use diverse and creative play calls and a two RB set is absolutely not out of the question. You can bet he will line up where Vance McDonald did in some formations as a H-Back behind Alejandro Villanueva, but also line up in the slot where McDonald will be. Samuels’ versatility is his best feature. After watching just three game, I already have so many ideas of where he can go and what he can do. He is slippery when he runs too, so reverses can come, jet sweeps, and just straight up runs.

He is demon in the open field. He will be an elusive bug to the opposition, and will just keep churning yards out due to athleticism. I love how he can be used here from the Z-position to run these types of plays. It is not like this is a guaranteed gadget play either, Samuels can legitimately run slants and more routes and beat corners while doing it. The more I see him play, the more Corey Clement I see, but I would call him a fusion of Clement and Le’Veon Bell. I am impressed by his game and had an early 3rd round grade on him, so for me, this is an incredible value for the offense.

How can the offense use him?

First, Samuels can be used in more than one way, especially with how creative Randy Fichtner’s scheme was at Memphis. You can expect some gadget and more exotic plays. Run-Pass-Options (RPOs) will likely be more incorporated with an integral chain moving scheme run through the short passing game; which, in turn will set up Le’Veon Bell and the run game. Of course, after all this, he also has the skill to be a part in the vertical passing game, but he has shown the tendency to use his slot receivers pretty exotically. Samuels makes complete sense for this role overall, and will allow the offense to expand. So, here are just a few areas where Samuels will be helpful to the Steelers.

The Slot

Samuels lined up in the slot more than 50-percent of the time at NC State, and I expect similar results to occur here. Samuels loves to run short hitches in particular because he is absolutely deadly in running them. He gets quick separation, and quickly gains the yardage needed to move the chains, or gain touchdowns. A favorite of his is also the slant and the out. He does both effectively, and can do them of varying lengths, not just 5 yards at a time. You should trust his hands, and if these two plays are not more proof of that, I do not know what is.

He is such a good chain mover from the slot for a few reasons, but they all root themselves in concise route running, which creates separation, quickness in and out of breaks, and strong hands which allow him to convert hard receptions over the middle. That tool will be so handy in the physical AFC North. The Steelers liked to run in this bunch set at times that NC State was pictured using in the second play. From here, Samuels can get a clean release either out on short downs, or release in as the TE (presumably Vance McDonald or Jesse James) cuts off the Defensive Back’s route to Samuels, thus allowing him to get open.

The Steelers also like to run screens from this same formation, and Samuels handles this duty very well too. He is slippery enough to gain yards, and hard fought ones at that, so expect the screen game to be used on early downs with Samuels as one of the main catalysts.

A short, sharp hitch by Samuels shows exactly what he can bring to the Steelers. The Steelers notably have trouble in the red zone and on third down, and what Samuels does is strongly improves this. He can run these routes, catch it and move the chains. Versatility is one thing, but a chain mover is another and is not exactly one thing the Steelers absolutely have outside of JuJu Smith Schuster. He has tendency to also turn these plays into all out huge gains too, just check this play out (GIF courtesy of Steelers Depot).

He is fast, you can see the big play ability here too, but even more importantly the guy is versatile in his route tree. He can be a true slot receiver if he ever gets a bit more physical at the line, but he is a mismatch against most slot corners and most definitely against linebackers. His versatility makes him an issue right away from the match up standpoint.

Here is Samuels being the chain mover he is, he will help the Steelers issues on the 3rd down a ton.

Z Receiver

He does not line up at Z receiver all that often but when he does he often runs hitches, slants, or it is a gadget play such as a jet sweep. Still, versatility is key and it shows how dangerous he is on those gadget plays. (GIF courtesy of Steelers Depot)

He came from the Z spot here and just rips off a big run and shows off his elusiveness and slipperiness. Do not expect to arm tackle this man, he will instead bounce off you and Samuels has some really solid balance for his size. He is dangerous is the jet sweep game, and he will make opponents pay for allowing him to get into open field.

Tight End/Full Back

NC State and the Steelers both love to bring receivers across the formation to run out to the flats for gains, particularly on play action plays for short gains. It is exactly how the Steelers got chewed up by the Jacksonville Jaguars and TJ Yeldon, who had a huge game doing this alone. Samuels is so quick that he will maximize yards from doing this and in addition to it he does this in the red zone incredibly well. He makes a number of adjustments on balls I have seen as well and he does it in very little time. His ball skills for the hybrid he is are incredible, and you will see just how effective he is here in these two plays.

Proving the efficiency that he brings and the maximum value he will bring to the team. The red zone threat and chain mover he is only add another level of hellish planning for opposing defensive coordinators to do. I think he is absolutely going to flourish here, but also, we know how the Steelers love the pitch inside play, Samuels has experience with that play and more of it from this very look.

Yet again, he exposes his gadget ability and just how well he molds here. His speed to the outside and ability to slip off of blocks both in between the tackles and outside will give him the ability to add viable and valuable contributions to the Steelers offense on third and short and in the red zone. The Steelers are all about fixing each problem, and offensive efficiency was one of them no doubt.

RB

In addition to all of that, Samuels can run the football between the tackles pretty well actually. He has solid vision for someone who does all that he does and he shows off just how tough he can be to bring down often. His cutback and smooth hips allow for fluid and effective cuts and thus add to that elusiveness. Samuels doesn’t run with power but he does run with balance which I find to be more important. The Steelers love balance in their RBs, and Le’Veon Bell and James Conner both have incredible balance when they run and Samuels is no exception to that rule.

(GIF courtesy of Alex Kozora — @Alex_Kozora)

This is the solid vision and cutback ability I am talking about. The guy is incredibly smooth when he does it and has some of the loosest hips and active feet I have seen in the class. Shout out to Tony Adams for destroying that man’s life too, but all in all a solid run by Samuels as well.

Here he shows he is yet again elusive and shakes off that arm tackle at the beginning and then just kicks in the second gear and is gone. Samuels is really a polished runner for how versatile he is and I love it. He is not just all of those things I listed, but also an incredibly solid runner. He may third on the depth chart in terms of RB, but you can bet he will get more snaps than James Conner does this season due to this versatility he has. Lastly, he is incredibly polished route running out of the backfield, he is just dangerous. The one big weakness he has is pass protection because he has not been asked to do it often, hopefully he can improve on that aspect.

Overall

Jaylen Samuels will be a welcome addition to the Steelers offense and will expand the options of this team. Most importantly, Samuels will allow the Steelers to have a higher efficiency in the red zone, and on third down. I think Samuels has the shot to be a really special player. He could just be an incredible gadget weapon, but used correctly he can be so much more. I’m not sold he is the Le’Veon Bell replacement, but he does make up for the production in the receiving game Bell brings to the table. He is a warrior on Special Teams as well to add to it, so you can bet he will get offensive and special teams snaps. Samuels will make a day one impact, and will make this offense more dangerous than it already is.