Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers tried the approach of drafting a player that one of their new coaches on the staff had worked with at their previous stop. Karl Dunbar was brought in to coach the offensive line in 2018, and they subsequently used a seventh-round pick on one of his players from Alabama, Joshua Frazier.
That didn’t end up working out. Frazier failed to make the 53-man roster, and even failed to make the practice squad. He ended up playing in the AAF this year and he yet to make it back to a 90-man roster, though the Steelers did already bring back one former college free agent defensive lineman who was in camp with them who would go on to play for the AAF.
So, they tried the opposite approach. Rather than get the coach before the player, this year, they used the player to find the coach, after they hired 2018 fifth-round running back Jaylen Samuels’ position coach to be their new running backs coach in Eddie Faulkner.
Of course, they didn’t necessarily do either of those things deliberately, but Samuels’ rookie season did help convince the coaching staff of Faulkner’s abilities as a coach, something Head Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged at the annual league meeting.
Given that he has already worked with Samuels for years, Faulkner has an added insight into the young player that the rest of the coaching staff doesn’t. so when he sat down with Missi Matthews for an interview with the team’s website, the veteran reporter naturally asked the coach about his former and current player.
“I mean, what I think you can expect is him to give his all”, he said about his expectations for Samuels going into year two. “That’s kind of a generic answer, but it’s the truth because I think he has a good perspective after having a year in the NFL and what it’s going to take for him to be the best he can be. And he wants to be a good football player”.
I think that has been consistently reflected in his interviews since being drafted. While I would not describe him as necessarily humble, he has a drive about him to succeed and a desire to both understand and accomplish whatever it is he needs to do to improve.
“I know he’s working hard to see where he can contribute”, Faulkner said. “And we’ve got a lot offensive weapons and a lot of good players in my room, so, obviously he’s going to have to come to work everyday and do what he does from there. But I know what he’s capable of doing and if he continues to develop, he’s gonna continue to get better”.
Samuels is currently expected to enter the 2019 season as the backup running back to James Conner, but it’s possible that he can also be used as a third-down back thanks to his receiving abilities. It already seemed prior to Conner’s late-season injury that the rookie was starting to gain additional snaps. He caught three touchdown passes on 26 receptions and totaled 455 yards from scrimmage on 82 touches.