As you would probably expect, the Pittsburgh Steelers have their eyes on a few of the top-rated wide receivers in this year’s draft class and they even met with a few of them in some capacity on Monday. One of those top-rated wide receivers, Deebo Samuel out of South Carolina, said during his combine press conference that he had a formal interview with the Steelers scheduled for Monday night.
While Samuel did manage to catch 148 passes for 2,076 yards and 16 touchdowns during his four-year career at South Carolina, those totals would have been even higher if not for him suffering a fractured ankle early during the 2017 season. That injury resulted in Samuel missing the remainder of the season and after he had already recorded 15 receptions for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first three games.
Samuel said he played the X position while at this year’s Senior Bowl in January and while some have tabbed him more a slot wide receiver in this year’s draft class, he believes he can play anywhere on offense just as he did at South Carolina.
“I do my best work either outside or inside,” Samuel said.
When asked who the toughest cornerback was that he played against at South Carolina, Samuel didn’t take very long to give his answer.
“[Georgia’s] Deandre Baker,” Samuel said.
When pressed as to why he thinks Baker was the best he faced, it once again didn’t take Samuel long to come up with an answer.
“He was just fast and physical and very patient,” he said.
While Samuel caught 6 passes in that game against Georgia, he only managed 33 total yards receiving as cornerback Deandre Baker, a first-round prospect in this year’s draft class, did a great job of preventing any big receptions in that game. Samuel was asked Monday if he thinks he may have still been a little rusty coming off his injury against Georgia, which was the second game of the season.
“I would say at the beginning of the year I was kind of a little rusty but as time went on, you could see from the Missouri game on until the end of the season, you see a whole different player,” Samuel said.
Samuel was later asked what he thought was his best game last season and he said the one against Clemson. He caught 10 passes for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns against Clemson in a 56-35 loss.
“We dominated their secondary as a whole offense and [I] just went out there and made every play that came my way,” Samuel said about that strong showing late in the season against Clemson.
While Deebo is just a nickname that stuck as his first name, Samuel admitted Monday it came from the movie ‘Friday.’ In case you didn’t already know it, Deebo was the name of a character in that movie who was known as the neighborhood bully. Deebo is also the nickname of former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, but Samuel was unaware of that fact when it was brought to his attention during his Monday press conference.
“My dad named me that so when I was a kid he said I used to be a bully and take kid’s toys and stuff at a young age,” Samuel explained.
So, does Samuel still consider himself a bully now that he’s all grown up and about to enter the NFL in a few more months?
“Nah, on the field I am,” Samuel said when asked if he’s still a bully.
Samuel will go through the paces at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis on Tuesday and he said Monday he expects to excel in the route running drills as well as the 40-yard-dash. When asked what time he thinks he’ll post in the 40-yard-dash, Samuel gave a very confident answer.
“Fast,” he said.
Samuel enters this year’s draft as a very versatile player as not only did he play wide receiver at South Carolina, he also returned 42 kickoffs for 1,219 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also made sure to point out on Monday that he played gunner on the punt coverage team during his college career.
“So, I’m just not only a receiver, I’m a very versatile guy,” Samuel said.
The Steelers love versatile players and if they indeed part ways with wide receiver Antonio Brown this offseason, they mighty ultimately have serious interest in drafting Samuel in the first two rounds and especially if they get an early round pick as part of a trade compensation.
Samuel measured in at this year’s scouting combine at 5112, 214-pounds with 31 3/8-inch arms and 10-inch hands. On Monday he did 15 reps on the bench.