The first time that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Jaylen Samuels said that he ever truly felt as though he were a player with a position was when he worked at the Senior Bowl with the running back group. When the Steelers drafted him in the fifth round, he was listed as a tight end on many websites. Now? There is no doubt of what he is, including in his own mind.
Samuels sat down with Missi Matthews for an interview with the team’s website following his big game against the New England Patriots and she asked him pointblank. “I definitely see myself as a true running back now, but a running back who can also be able to catch out of the backfield”, he said. “I’ve definitely got a lot of traits that come with my job, so, I definitely see myself as a true running back”.
During his four-year college career, Samuels actually had more receptions than rushes, catching 202 passes in comparison to 182 carries. The common denominator between both, however, was the ability to score, combining for 47 touchdowns. This season, he is still looking for his first rushing touchdown, but he has two through the air.
“I’ve definitely grown a lot just working with Coach [James Saxon] and the running backs all year, just learning different techniques, how to run the ball, where to put the ball in the right spots”, Samuels said of his transition to the running back position on a full-time basis.
“Me as a runner, I definitely have improved a lot since the Senior Bowl, because the Senior Bowl was really my first action as a true running back. But now that I’ve got a lot of exposure and game time, I feel real comfortable”.
And you might not be surprised to hear how he described his running style, especially if you had the opportunity to watch him on Sunday in the Patriots game, during which he gained 142 yards on the ground on 19 carries. Six of his rushes gained 10 or more yards, and came as a result of his ability to survey the field and make quick decisions based on the blocking.
“My running style, I describe it like, real patience”, he told Matthews. “Finding the holes, letting the blockers get out in front, making their blocks and just trying to make a read off their blocks and getting up north, making guys miss. So I feel like my running style is very patient, and then bursting out of it”.
That style worked well on Sunday against the Patriots, but it will be more difficult to repeat that performance against the New Orleans Saints’ run defense, especially in their home stadium. But perhaps he can have a bigger day with his receiving ability instead.