Last year when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Jaylen Samuels in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft, fans weren’t expecting much. There were some lofty expectations placed on him by the fan base in hopes of him becoming an ‘X-factor’ type player, but strictly as a running back expectations were low.
After all, Samuels had never rushed for 100 yards in any game at any level, even High School.
When James Conner was injured vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, no one knew what to expect in Samuels as a primary backup — then he rattled off 142 yards on the ground against the New England Patriots in Week 15.
From that point on, you could see Samuels’ game changing. It wasn’t as if he lost his ability to run routes, catch the football or play multiple positions, but he started to become more comfortable as a pure running back. As the season ended, fans saw Samuels as a very solid RB2 on the depth chart, and not just a gimmick player.
This offseason Samuels is determined to step up his game as a running back, and is working on his speed to help him become more of a “pure runner”. This per Jeremy Fowler of ESPN:
Steelers RB Jaylen Samuels said he focused on speed this offseason, which he says will help "be more decisive in and out of my cuts as a pure runner." Did he get faster? "I believe I got faster," he said. "I can get in and out of my cuts a little bit better."— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) June 21, 2019
Samuels’ improvement will be huge for the Steelers’ offense, mainly due to the simple fact James Conner has yet to complete a full NFL season in his first two years in the league. If Samuels is able to improve his game, if Conner were lost for a length of time, like he was in 2018, the former N.C. State product should have no problems filling in for Conner.
With training camp just a few weeks away, the running back depth chart will certainly be something to watch as the players prepare to head to Saint Vincent College for their annual training camp. James Conner is clearly the top back, but how will Samuels, Benny Snell Jr. and even Ralph Webb fit into the equation? How will the Steelers’ offense work in regards to the backs on the roster? Running back by committee? Or a feature back with players to spell said back?
Only time will tell, but Samuels seems he is doing his best to make sure he is ready to go if/when his name/number is called into action.
Be sure to stay tuned into BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers as the offseason rolls on and training camp nears.