Ex-NC State RB Sa­muels looks for big­ger role with Steel­ers

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Nfl Week 10 - BY CHRIS ADAMSKI Tri­bune-Re­view (Greens­burg, Pa.)

Rookie Jaylen Sa­muels en­tered Thurs­day night’s game with an NFL reg­u­lar-sea­son ré­sumé that in­cluded all of 15 of­fen­sive snaps, five car­ries, no re­cep­tions and no touch­downs.

Did he emerge from the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers’ dom­i­nat­ing 52-21 win against the Carolina Pan­thers with a much more prom­i­nent role go­ing for­ward?

“I’m feel­ing more com­fort­able as the sea­son is go­ing on,” Sa­muels said. “And l’m look­ing for­ward to it go­ing up from here.”

Sa­muels had eight touches (five rushes and three catches) for 29 yards from scrimmage – in­clud­ing a 6yard touch­down re­cep­tion from Ben Roeth­lis­berger on the first play of the fourth quar­ter. That play served as some­thing of an an­nounce­ment of Sa­muels’ ar­rival in the NFL.

A fifth-round pick, Sa­muels had 47 touch­downs in his ca­reer at North Carolina State.

“I’d seen the end zone a lot in my col­lege ca­reer,” said Sa­muels, a Char­lotte na­tive and stand­out player at Mal­lard Creek High School. “So to see it in the NFL for the first time, it was a beau­ti­ful thing. So hope­fully it keeps rid­ing up from here.”

Sa­muels’ ca­reer fig­ures to con­tinue as­cend­ing – but how Jaylen Sa­muels high? And how quickly? In some ways, his first no­table NFL game comes at a time in which his rookie sea­son is at some­thing of a cross­roads due to cir­cum­stances out of his con­trol.

It’s not out of the realm of pos­si­bil­ity that by the time the Steel­ers play their next game, Sa­muels is their fea­tured back. It’s also en­tirely pos­si­ble, though, that over the next week he could be de­moted down a peg of the depth chart.

The ar­rival of Le’Veon Bell could mean the lat­ter; a poor prog­no­sis within con­cus­sion pro­to­col for James Con­ner could lead to the for­mer.

The re­al­ity for the near fu­ture of Sa­muels’ Steel­ers ca­reer is prob­a­bly some­where in the mid­dle.

“I mean I just come to work ev­ery day; I don’t re­ally worry about any of that,” Sa­muels said, though he did add a lit­tle later that he “def­i­nitely” saw his more ex­ten­sive ac­tion Thurs­day as an “au­di­tion” for even more work.

A tight end/full­back/wide re­ceiver in col­lege, the 6-foot, 225-pound Sa­muels was drafted by the Steel­ers to be a run­ning back. That’s the po­si­tion room in which he spends his time, and that’s where he most of­ten lines up.

“I have been in the run­ning back (room) do­ing a lot of stuff just strictly run­ning back,” Sa­muels said, “but they also have split­ting out some, mo­tion­ing me out of the back­field, get­ting me mis­matches on DBs and lineback­ers just get­ting me to run routes from the slot or from (out­side) re­ceiver. So they are do­ing a lot of dif­fer­ent things with me.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, Sa­muels on Thurs­day ran 15 plays lined up out of the back­field, plus one snap each from the slot and out wide. Com­ing into the game, those num­bers are 12 from the back­field, one in the slot and two wide – all but two of the snaps com­ing the past two weeks.

Sa­muels ap­pears to be earn­ing in­creas­ingly more trust of the Steel­ers’ of­fen­sive coaches, enough so that his role in the of­fense might be im­mune to Bell’s po­ten­tial ar­rival next week.

Sa­muels also ap­par­ently earned the eye of Roeth­lis­berger. Sa­muels was tar­geted by at­tempted passes four times among his 17 snaps, a gen­er­ous ra­tio – and Roeth­lis­berger, un­so­licited, brought up how glad he was that he was part of Sa­muels’ first pro touch­down.

“What an ef­fort lit­tle screen play down there go­ing over top,” Roeth­lis­berger said. “It wasn’t an easy play by him and I was happy he was able to get into the end zone.”


Steel­ers run­ning back Jaylen Sa­muels (38) leaps over Carolina Pan­thers de­fen­sive back Rashaan Gaulden for a touch­down dur­ing the sec­ond half Thurs­day in Pitts­burgh.

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