While there were a number of very solid individual performance for the Pittsburgh Steelers last night, on both sides of the ball, perhaps the one that I found myself most excited about was that of rookie running back Jaylen Samuels to open the second half of the game. While he played pretty much all of the second half in the week before, he didn’t get many touches.
Yesterday, he got 15 of them and turned them into 77 offensive yards, and that doesn’t include a touchdown that was negated by a holding penalty that was not necessary to complete the play. He broke two tackles on that catch-and-run and certainly deserves credit for his effort on it.
Said the fifth-round pick about the fact that Head Coach Mike Tomlin was testing his endurance, “I had like three runs in a row where I broke over 10 yards. That’s when I started getting a little winded. But I could’ve stayed in there, which I did”.
Samuels got seven consecutive touches to open the Steelers’ first drive of the third quarter, starting off with an 18-yard run. He then received a short pass from Mason Rudolph for four before carrying the ball for five yards, setting up a third-and-one scenario on which he gained three.
Following a run of no gain on the new set of downs, he caught another pass that he turned into a 10-yard gain for his sixth consecutive touch, then carried the ball for another two yards before getting a respite of a few plays. Then came the 17-yard touchdown reception, the seven yards of which, plus the six points, were negated by a hold called against Marcus Tucker.
He continue to get work, even if that was the bulk of his carries on that opening possession, and overall turned in a very encouraging performance that will go a long way toward improving his candidacy for a roster spot. But it wasn’t enough. Not for him.
He told reporters that he needs to “keep working, keep improving every day, every week. I’m not even happy. I’m not satisfied yet. I had a good game but there’s still work to do. There’s still improving to do, so I’ll come back next week and improve more”.
Samuels refused to even broach the topic of locking up a roster spot with another game yet to play. the Steelers have a backfield that is more crowded than usual with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Stevan Ridley serving as a pair of veterans who have legitimate NFL experience also in the mix for one or possibly two spots.
The important thing for the rookie, however, is that he is not just a running back, or even just a receiver. He’s not just a contributor on offense, but in fact has also gotten a lot of work on special teams. In point of fact, he was on the field for the opening kickoff, and logs snaps in all four phases. Combine his offensive and special teams abilities and he becomes a hard player to cut.