The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How would you decide the division of labor at running back between Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley?
We have already known for a couple of days that the Steelers were not going to have James Conner for Sunday’s game after he suffered an ankle injury late in this past game’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Even though initial concerns were seemingly minimal, Mike Tomlin made clear that the injury went a bit beyond what they originally thought an ruled him out on Tuesday.
While they did call up Trey Edmunds from the practice squad, the odds are that he is not going to see many snaps on offense, if he sees any at all, so it’s going to be primarily depend upon Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley to shoulder the load.
Ridley began the year as the primary backup to Conner, but Samuels has overtaken him in recent weeks, and even played 15 snaps on Sunday before Conner was injured, while Ridley did not play any. Both backs said that they were both taking first-team reps and that it would be a division of labor, but how would it be divided?
Considering the fact that Ridley only has 30 receptions in his entire eight-year career, and Samuels was an accomplished pass-catcher in college with two receiving touchdowns already this year, I think it’s safe to say that he will play in all or nearly all obvious passing situations.
But what about running the ball? Ridley is the more natural runner and played well when he started against the Browns at the end of last season, even if he is averaging just 3.1 yards per carry this year on 18 attempts.
Personally speaking, I would like to see Samuels take as much as he can handle. If he is running well early on, then I would give him 80 percent of the work or more.