Now that the 2020 offseason has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past season, and with notice to anything that happens going forward.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: RB Jaylen Samuels
Stock Value: Even
Reasoning: The fact that he is one of the most veteran running backs on the roster benefits him in a shortened offseason. At the same time, it could also potentially benefit Kerrith Whyte, with an opportunity for him to earn a return job, which would preserve him as the fourth running back. So I’m sticking with even.
Jaylen Samuels has close to 600 snaps under his belt over the course of his first two season on offense. He also has another 260 snaps on special teams. Given the inexperience of the running back position behind him and the loss of special teams reps in the offseason through Tyler Matakevich, Anthony Chickillo, Roosevelt Nix, and others, both of these factors play to his advantage under the circumstances.
Benny Snell is probably a lock to make the roster, but he only played 166 snaps last season, despite logging 111 touches. And the second-year back has limitations in his game that the absence of a proper offseason won’t help him with.
Kerrith Whyte played in six games as a rookie last year, in very limited work, and all in an offense he was learning on the fly. Anthony McFarland is a rookie with only two years of collegiate experience. While he is a probable lock as well and adds another dimension to the offense, the Steelers still value Samuels’ experience. After all, he had 113 touches himself last year. And he has the receiving element other backs don’t have.
But in spite of that, there is the undeniable reality that he is coming off of a poor season in which he averaged just 4.2 yards per touch last year, went 47 of his touches were receptions. He averaged 6.5 yards per catch and 2.7 yards per rush.
As it currently stands, Whyte is the incumbent kick returner, though that is perhaps only because Ryan Switzer got injured. But with Switzer’s poor history in that role, they may favor Whyte, who is more explosive. McFarland could be groomed for that role, but he has one kick return in his history, and no offseason to adapt to it. If there’s no preseason, then it’s inconceivable that he would be the returner right away.