Not long after the Pittsburgh Steelers chose not to renew the contract of running backs coach James Saxon after the 2018 regular season ended, Eddie Faulkner, formerly of the North Carolina State coaching staff, was hired to replace him. Faulkner had coached Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels, one of the team’s two fifth-round draft pick last year, at North Carolina State, and him being able to contribute some during his rookie season certainly was great to see. As we learned recently from Faulkner during his recent interview with Missi Matthews of steelers.com, Faulkner wasn’t a stranger to Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner prior to him being hired earlier this offseason.
“Well, I’ve come for the past several years to [Steelers] OTA practices and just, I grew up a Steelers fan, believe it or not,” Faulkner told Matthews. “I’ve always had a lot of admiration for the way Coach Tomlin goes about his business. Randy Fichtner recruited me out of a high school when he was at Purdue, so that relationship goes back 20-some-odd years, I think when Jaylen got here and played well, I think that maybe was part of the icing on the cake.”
Faulkner, by the way, was an undrafted free agent invitee to Steelers training camp in 2001 after his college career at Wisconsin was over.
Samuels, who was a a do-it-all player during his four years at North Carolina State, rushed for 256 yards on 56 carries during his 2018 rookie season in addition to catching 26 passes for 199 yards and 3 touchdowns. He started 3 games at running back for the Steelers after fellow running back James Conner was sidelined with an ankle injury during the second half of the regular season. He also played nearlt 24% of all Steelers special teams snaps as a rookie.
Faulkner’s first offseason with the Steelers has included him making the pro day rounds as part of him evaluating several running backs in this year’s draft class. While he’s surely been to more than just three pro days this offseason, we were able to confirm he was present for the Pittsburgh, Michigan State and Kentucky ones.
The Steelers seem poised to draft yet another running back this year after losing Le’Veon Bell via free agency. In fact, the team has already hosted five running backs for pre-draft visits in April with those players being Ohio State’s Mike Weber, Penn State’s Miles Sanders, Alabama’s Damien Harris, Florida’s Jordan Scarlett and Miami’s Travis Homer. In summation, expect Faulkner to have at least one new Steelers running back to work with after this year’s draft in addition to a few others the team’s likely to sign as undrafted free agents.
“Eddie brings a nice young energy,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told Matthews not long after Faulkner was hired. “Coming from the college ranks, you know Eddie was with us in 2001 as a free agent running back. He rejoins us coming in with a different perspective. He’s also helped on special teams which is good He coached Jaylen Samuels at North Carolina State.
“So there’s a lot of positives bringing in a new, young face into the organization with different ideas. Again, the college game is leaking into our game. As we did with Coach Bradley last year, if you can add someone who can coach at the NFL level who has that recent college experience, I think it’s valuable.”