The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the 2019 season much as they did the 2018 season, by allowing their playoff fate slip out of their grasp. Slow starts and slow finishes permeated both campaigns, with strong runs in between. But while the results were the same missing the playoffs, the means were quite different.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we. But that they still managed to go 8-8 without Ben Roethlisberger, and with the general quality of play that they faced along the way, I suppose things could have been worse.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2018 season.
Player: Jaylen Samuels
Position: Running Back
Experience: 2 Years
Things didn’t go so well for Jaylen Samuels in his second season. He ran the ball more often, but gained fewer yards. That’s a starting point. He was actually woefully inefficient as a runner, gaining just 175 yards on the ground on 66 rushing attempts, which translates to an average of just 2.7 yards per attempt, though he did record one touchdown.
One interesting thing I would like to note comes from Pro Football Reference’s fairly new advanced stats. According to their data, Samuels, who averaged 4.5 yards per carry as a rookie, actually recorded the same number of yards per carry after contact in 2019 as he did the year before. The difference was the yards before contact. As a rookie, he averaged 2.6 yards per contact. Last year, it was just .7 yards, nearly two full yards worse.
So it’s fair to say that the run blocking and its quality, or lack thereof, did play some part in his overall performance. I do think the run blocking was below the line for the Steelers as a whole last season, relative to their norm, and that’s also acknowledging that their strength is in pass protection (as it should be).
As a receiver, Samuels added another 47 touches, gaining 305 yards, though with only one touchdown (he had three in 2018). Here again we see that he had a pretty similar yards after the catch figure, but his average depth of target was shallower (both years have been behind the line of scrimmage on average).
None of this is to absolve Samuels of his own shortcomings. He couldn’t seem to break a tackle for his life last season, for one thing. His pass protection also did not take the step forward that it absolutely needed to. I don’t think it’s too far to suggest that his roster spot will be in jeopardy if the Steelers draft a running back.