We’ll find out in a few more weeks if Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Jaylen Samuels showed enough during training camp and the preseason to warrant a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. On Thursday, however, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the team’s second of two fifth-round draft picks this year ahead the Saturday preseason game against the Tennessee Titans and he didn’t mince words when talking about him during his press conference.
“You know, I think he’s increasingly get more consistent in terms of what we expect from him,” Tomlin said of Samuels when asked for a current assessment of the rookie running back. “He’s got a skillset that’s good in some areas that’s very varsity and consistently varsity. Some areas in his game he’s got to continue to grow. He’s finding more consistency in those areas that he needs to grow, as he should, and we’ll just continue to take him through the processes as we will all the others.
“I like his overall attitude in terms of the challenges that we’re presenting to him in terms of the areas of his game that he needs to work. He caught a lot of balls and he was a third down back-like guy at NC State. So, we’re challenging him in some other ways that might be somewhat new to him.”
Tomlin was then immediately asked to disclose the other ways that Samuels will be challenged moving forward into the rest of the preseason.
“Just regular running back type things,” Tomlin said. “It’s not anything earth shattering, to be honest with you. He caught a lot of balls, he didn’t run a lot of balls. So some of the running back things, some of the non receiving things.”
If you studied the contextualization of Samuels that I posted after the Steelers drafted him, you should already know that what Tomlin said Thursday about the rookie running back is not a bit surprising. While Samuels did rush 181 times for 1,103 yards and 28 touchdowns during his four seasons at North Carolina State, not all of those carries included him lining up like a traditional running back. Instead, Samuels was used several times on end-around runs and even as a Wildcat quarterback. Additionally, Samuels wasn’t asked to pass protect much at all at North Carolina State from the running back position.
Samuels has rushed 15 times for 45 yards and a touchdown so far during the preseason with a long run of 15 yards. He’s also caught 4 passes for 14 yards in the team’s first two preseason games and has pass protected just a few times. In total, he’s played just over 60 offensive snaps during the preseason and just over 25 on special teams.
It will now be interesting to see how much playing time he gets on offense Saturday against the Titans. With that contest being a tune up for the regular season, Samuels might not see the field on offense until late in the second half. His next extensive playing time might be in the Steelers preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers and he’ll probably need a very strong showing in that game in order to give himself a legitimate shot at making the 53-man roster.