The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Jaylen Samuels out of North Carolina State in the fifth round as a running back. The only thing is that he’s never really been a true running back before. He’ll be the first one to tell you that. But the team was committed to transitioning him to that role on a full-time basis
The early results are pretty positive. Going even all the way back to high school, he told reporters after Sunday’s victory over the New England Patriots that he never had a 100-yard rushing game before, nor a game with that many carries. He gained 142 yards on the ground for the offense on 19 rushes.
That was a week after he gained just 28 yards on 11 rushing attempts against the Oakland Raiders, who are as bad a defense against the run as were the Patriots. While the blocking was better against New England, however, so was Samuels.
“This week I knew I was starting again against another great matchup”, he told reporters, according to the team’s communications department. “I just had to key in to the little things this week, be more
prepared. I’m just glad we came out with a victory”.
He had to be more prepared not just in terms of the gameplan and in executing his assignments but also in simply understanding the nature of his position, which is something that he admits that he is still working on.
Asked about why the Steelers were able to have success on the ground to the perimeter, he said, “t was just getting on the blocks, reading the blocks and setting them up as well”. He added, “that’s the main thing I’m trying to work on in my game as a runner – transitioning to a true runner. That’s what I was doing and was able to make some pretty impressive runs”.
Samuels had six rushes of 10 yards or more against the Patriots, including four of 15 or more yards with a long gain of 25. Those were the first runs of 10 or more yards of his career. On the season, he now has 201 rushing yards on 42 attempts, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Of course he also has 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions. He had just two catches against the Patriots but got 30 yards on them. He also had seven receptions for 64 yards against the Raiders the week before.
The hope and plan is for James Conner to return in time for next week’s game against the New Orleans Saints, but even assuming that he does, Samuels figures to continue to find a role within the offense, especially as Conner works back from his ankle injury.