The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Oakland Raiders on the road Sunday without starting running back James Conner (ankle) and it appears as though rookie running back Jaylen Samuels will ultimately get the start in his place.
RB Jaylen Samuels said he will start Sunday’s game against the Raiders but that he and Stevan Ridley will split time. Samuels will get a package, then Ridley will go, per Samuels.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 5, 2018
Samuels said at the conclusion of the Steelers Wednesday practice that he will start Sunday’s game against the Raiders, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. However, Samuels did also say that he and veteran running back Stevan Ridley will split time against the Raiders. Samuels said he will get a package, then Ridley will go.
Samuels starting Sunday isn’t a huge surprise as he’s received all of the offensive running back snaps behind Conner in the team’s last three games. The fact that he and Ridley will split work on Sunday also isn’t a big surprise as head coach Mike Tomlin hinted as much on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
“That is our intentions as we sit here but we have a preparation week in front of us and sometimes division of labor is revealed through that work,” Tomlin said Tuesday when asked Tuesday if we expect the offense to run a by committee approach at the running back position. “We got a great deal of confidence in [Stevan] Ridley, we got a great deal of confidence in Jaylen [Samuels] and Jaylen particularly of late. He is a guy that has been on rise in recent weeks, we’ve talked about it in here. Trey [Edmunds] is a guy who’s played some pro football. We were excited about getting him on our practice squad when we acquired him, so we’ll put him in uniform and give him an opportunity to be a contributor as well.”
So far this season, Samuels, who was drafted in the fifth-round this year out of North Carolina State, has 12 carries for 31 yards in addition to 7 receptions for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns. As for Ridley, he has registered 18 carries for 56 yards and 3 receptions for another 18 yards so far this season.
“[Stevan] Ridley is a guy that has been around the League for a while,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Wednesday when asked to describe Ridley and Samuels. “He’s got some NFL experience and has been here for a little bit now. [Jaylen] Samuels is a guy that is kind of new to the game and a big body guy that we use a lot in the passing game. We have specific plays and packages with him in because we want to throw the ball, so it will be interesting how they want to use both of them going forward. I think it will be good for everyone to get reps and keep each other fresh.”
The Steelers promoted running back Trey Edmunds to their 53-man roster from their practice squad on Tuesday with Conner now sidelined. Edmunds, however, is likely only going to see action on special teams against the Raiders. He only has 9 NFL regular season carries to date and all of them came during his 2017 rookie season with the New Orleans Saints.