2019 South Side Questions: How Much Will Jaylen Samuels’ Absence Impact The Offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.

The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.

How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: How much will Jaylen Samuels’ absence be felt on the offensive side of the ball?

Jaylen Samuels was averaging about six to seven touches per game over the course of the first five games for the Steelers. He even, technically, attempted five passes, one of which was intercepted on an ill-advised play out of the Wildcat, which was becoming a part of the offense over the course of the past two weeks.

But just as he was getting these looks in that package, he suffered a knee injury that head coach Mike Tomlin said earlier today is likely to sideline him for the next month. That month at least includes the upcoming bye week after their game against the Los Angeles Chargers, but nevertheless they still figure to be without him for three or four games.

It would be inaccurate to try to claim that Samuels was becoming a huge part of the offense, but he was certainly a meaningful contributor whose role was likely to expand over the course of the season, and now that development will be stunted due to injury, while striking a blow at the depth of the running back position.

James Conner has dealt with some injuries this year, it’s worth noting, and currently the only other running back on the roster is rookie Benny Snell, who is still working the flesh out his entire game, though he has a few positive plays under his belt.

He will have the opportunity over the course of the next several weeks to make a case for himself to have a bigger role going forward. Or at least one would assume, unless the Steelers ride with Conner most of the way, and supplement, as they did last year, with four- and five-receiver sets to get the running back off the field altogether.

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