Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: Jaylen Samuels
Stock Value: Up
Evaluation Type: Minor, Moderate-Term
Reason: Performance, Quality of Reps
Rookie fifth-round running back Jaylen Samuels has been a bit of a polarizing figure so far for the Steelers, at least within our community. There were several of us who are very excited about the potential he has in adding to the offense, while others among us are screaming ‘pump the breaks’.
Caution is always warranted when discussing young players, especially rookies, and that is appropriate more than ever in the spring before the pads even come on. But the positive press that Samuels has already received should not be ignored either.
An H-back out of NC State who didn’t really have a clearly defined role, Samuels has since coming out of college gotten the opportunity to be more of a specialist in specific areas, which really started during the Senior Bowl practices, where he was a standout performer in receiving drills.
He has continued to impress onlookers in that aspect of practice with the Steelers. Ramon Foster, for example, was effusive in his praise of what he has seen out of the rookie as a receiver so far, complimenting him on his ability to come down with combat catches in particular. The veteran lineman sees real potential for development.
Samuels previously told reporters that he got the opportunity—admittedly with Le’Veon Bell nowhere in sight—to take some reps with the first-team offense during the spring in passing situations. While Bell is not there, James Conner, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Stevan Ridley are, all players one might think would play over him.
It’s not inconceivable that the Steelers could have Bell and Samuels on the field together, given that Bell is already a proven commodity as a receiver and Samuels is so far showing that his performance in that regard at the college level is transferable to this stage.
Still, there’s a long way to go yet. He has to make the team first, and unless the team chooses to carry four running backs—which they could—chances are his contributions will have to include some duties on special teams.