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: Moderate, Long-Term
Reason: Anticipated Reps in Training Camp, Bigger Role in 2019
I suppose it was obvious, or at least predictable, that this would be the next installment in this series as a ripple effect of the events from Monday. Or the non-events, rather. Stemming from the fact that the Steelers were unable to reach a long-term contract with Le’Veon Bell, rookie running back Jaylen Samuels will have a greater opportunity to showcase himself than he would have otherwise.
Coupled with the lack of a long-term contract is the reality that Bell will not be reporting to the team until shortly before the regular season begins. That means there will be a lot of additional reps in practice and in the preseason to go around for the rest of the running backs. James Conner, entering his second season, should be the primary beneficiary of that, but Samuels should be up there as well.
The rookie fifth-round pick has previously said that the team gave him some work even with the first-team offense during the spring, particularly during passing-game scenarios. Teammates such as Ramon Foster came away impressed with what he showed, complimenting his ability to make tough catches in tight or crowded spaces.
All of this naturally presumes that the offseason continues to go as it has for him. The reality is that he is not even guaranteed a roster spot. There are already four running backs on the 90-man roster, if you include Bell, who spent time on the 53-man roster in 2017, so it’s actually pretty crowded.
They would like him to win a spot though. That should go without saying. And he will be given the opportunity to do so. Even more so because Bell will not be there to take any reps away from him. And it could help set him up for the future.
Assuming that this is the last season for Bell in Pittsburgh, it could be Conner and Samuels as the top two runners in 2019 under one hypothetical. He can begin carving out a niche for himself in training camp that builds into a consistent role in 2019 under the best-case scenario.