The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Running back Jaylen Samuels will set a new career-high in touches on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
Explanation: The way things are currently tracking, it is very possible that Jaylen Samuels will be the only running back with any kind of meaningful experience available to the Steelers on Sunday, with James Conner, Benny Snell, and Trey Edmunds all dealing with injuries. Rookie undrafted free agent Tony Brooks-James, who played in his first game this past week and played one snap, is the only other healthy back on the 53-man roster. Darrin Hall was signed to the practice squad yesterday, another rookie undrafted free agent.
When Conner missed Sunday’s game, he talked about Trey Edmunds being used in Conner’s role, which largely facilitated him becoming the primary ballcarrier, while Samuels focused on the passing game. With Edmunds not available, potentially, Samuels will have no choice but to do both.
Brooks-James is more similar to Samuels than the other running backs on the roster, a speedier type of back who is not of the workhorse mold, so he’s not going to slide into that role, either.
Samuels’ career-high in touches in a single game is 21, not substantially high, which he has done twice before—first against the New England Patriots last year, wherein he recorded 19 rushes, and then this past game, in which he set a new franchise record for running backs with 13 receptions.
Knowing that Samuels is the only healthy running back of experience on the roster, Randy Fichtner is likely going to shy away from overworking him, and instead may rely upon more four-receiver sets, a package that has gone dormant since the start of the season.
Expect to see Ryan Switzer on the field more, not just as a receiver, but also in the backfield, to manufacture additional touches. Johnny Holton and Diontae Johnson may get looks on end-arounds as well to compensate.