The Pittsburgh Steelers are in the process of negotiating a possible long-term extension with running back Le’Veon Bell, an endeavor that seems hopeless at this point and one that frankly many people would rather not see. The All-Pro is scheduled to play under a $14.5 million franchise tag this year, and is likely looking for around that much per year in a long-term deal, which is substantially more than anybody else at his position is currently earning.
And the team just took a running back during the 2018 NFL Draft that one of his college coaches compares to the running back they’re trying to keep long-term but more likely will have to let walk in free agency next offseason.
“He’s very similar to a Le’Veon, to be honest with you”, NC State assistant Eddie Faulkner told Joe Rutter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently. “He’s a really good receiver. He can run the ball. He does a lot of things well”. And he comes to the team via the fifth round.
Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves here, nobody is suggesting that the rookie running back in question, Jaylen Samuels, is going to come into the league and prove to be a talent similar to that of Bell, who not only has elite skills but is the only true workhorse running back in the NFL right now and who excels in every phase of the game.
The rookie’s first task at hand is actually just ensuring that he earns a roster spot, because one will not be guaranteed to him, even if most are assuming that he will be significantly better than his competitors such as Stevan Ridley, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Jarvion Franklin.
In fact, even Samuels’ college coach warned against the idea of limiting him to doing only one thing. In college, he was what NC State called an H-back, a player who lined up almost everywhere, from out of the backfield to in the slot and even in-line.
“Asking him to do just one thing pigeon holes and limits him in what he can do. He’s honest-to-goodness the type of guy you have to be creative with and find a way to get him touches”, Faulkner said of his former player.
Yet the Steelers seem at least initially set to turning him into a running back full-time to get him started in his career, though Head Coach Mike Tomlin did say that his role is to be determined and talked about his college versatility.
Faulkner offered that the things that Samuels did well in college “translates well” to the NFL level, and called the Steelers a good fit. “They have good guys over there, and I see them doing things with the versatile running backs they have. I think Jaylen will fit in well with them”, he said.
Pittsburgh does like to use Bell as a receiver, both in the slot and out wide. I’m sure they would be open to using Samuels similarly in the passing game when he is on the field if he is up to it.