Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Jaylen Samuels ran for 142 yards on 19 total carries in the team’s Sunday home win over the New England Patriots and that was the most times he ever carried a football in a single game his entire career and the first time he’s ever gained 100 or more rushing yards in a game.
“No, I never rushed for 100 yards on the ground,” Samuels said during his post-game press conference when asked if he’s ever had the kind of workload that he had against the Patriots ever before.
Samuels went on to say that he’s never had 19 carries in a game before and not even in high school where he mostly played slot receiver in addition to some Wildcat quarterback, running back and even some on the defensive side at safety during his sophomore year.
“They just always tried to find a way to get me the ball,” Samuels said. “That’s just how it was going into college. That’s why I got recruited by NC State, because of the way they made their offense and how they got guys certain balls.”
Samuels lined up all over the place on offense during his four seasons at North Carolina State, where he posted a career high in carries for a single-game of 12 and single-game best 74 rushing yards.
Several of Samuels 19 carries on Sunday against the Patriots included a tight end or an offensive lineman being on the move ahead of him. In fact, a few of those runs, eight to be exact, were misdirection counter plays that included a tight end coming across the formation in the backfield. Samuels gained 72 of his rushing yards on those 8 plays with half of them including him receiving short tosses from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He was asked about that counter toss play after the game was over and specifically if it had a name.
“I don’t know if I can give you the exact play call,” Samuels said. “It’s like a little pitch-play basically. I can read the whole front and take it any way I want based off how the lineman block it and what kind of front the defense is in. I just tried to find a crease and make a play – make somebody miss and get north as many yards as I can.”
While the Steelers only ran the ball 9 times in the first half and just 13 times through the first three quarters of play, Samuels registered 8 of his 19 carries in the fourth quarter with the team leading and trying to milk the clock. 6 of those carries came during the Steelers final legitimate offensive possession of the game and the rookie was asked if anyone said anything to him before giving him the ball during that last drive.
“They were just saying, ‘Protect the ball.’ That’s the main thing I was thinking about, just protecting the ball,” Samuels said. “I was just staying relaxed, because I didn’t want to be too tensed up to protect the ball and not hit the hole to get a first down. I was just trying to be relaxed, do what I do and do what I’ve been doing all game. We just kept fighting to the end. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game all the way to 0:00 on the clock.”
Not only did Samuels have 142 rushing yards against the Patriots, he also caught two passes for another 30 yards with one of those coming on a third and 9 play from Steelers 26-yard-line with 3:14 left in the game. On that play, Samuels improvise some as Roethlisberger escaped the pocket to the right side of the field. That extra bought time allowed Samuels to break free from the defender covering him and Roethlisberger connected with the wide-open running back for a gain of 20 yards.
“It was huge,” Samuels said of that third down reception. “It originally wasn’t for me to get the ball, I had a little chip on the end, and then I just got out. I saw Ben [Roethlisberger] roll out and just tried to make a play. I saw the dude who was covering me press up on me hard, so I beat him deep. Ben found me, made a great throw, I made a great catch and just tried to stay inbounds to keep that clock running. It was a big play in the game.”
It was indeed a big play in the game and that drive ultimately culminated in a 48-yard field goal by kicker Chris Boswell to give the Steelers a 7-point lead with 2:34 remaining in regulation time.
“At the end of the game we took a lot of time off the clock. Unfortunately, we didn’t score like we wanted to, to put the game away. Bos [Chris Boswell] hit the field goal, so we were happy to see that,” Samuels said.
It will now be inter sting to see if starting running back James Conner will be able to return from his ankle injury next Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Even if Conner is able to return to action against the Saints, Samuels is likely to continue to see some playing time on offense moving forward as he’s definitely earned it.