Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rookie Samuels Grows Up Fast as Running Back

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Rookie Samuels Grows Up Fast as Running Back

Article excerpt

When James Conner was tearing up defenses earlier this season and leading the Steelers to a six-game winning streak, he heard often from Le'Veon Bell on Twitter.

"damn James" with a flexing bicep emoji was my favorite Bell communication and, I'm guessing, Conner's.

Here's hoping Bell took a little time Sunday night between his jet-skiing and a trip to a Miami strip club to reach out to Jaylen Samuels.

"You go Jaylen" would have worked after Samuels was the MVP - my choice - of the Steelers' stunning, 17-10 win against the New England Patriots.

"He did a lot. We asked him to do a lot," Ben Roethlisberger said. "That's the trust that we have in him that he's going to make plays."

Make plays?Would you believe 19 carries for 142 yards, an average of 7.5 yards per rush?

"I was just getting on the blocks, reading the blocks, setting the defenders up," Samuels said. "That's the main thing I'm trying to work on in the transition to a true runner is being able to set up the blocks."

How about two catches for 30 yards, including a big one for 20 yards on a third-and-9 play late in the game?

"How about that catch?" Roethlisberger asked, rhetorically, shaking his head.

Just say Samuels was Bell-like and Conner-like.

"I've never rushed for 100 yards," Samuels said. "I've never had 19 carries .

"Not even in high school.

"It was a heck of a workload, but that's what comes with playing running back in the National Football League."

Who saw this coming?

Samuels always has been a nice pass-catcher with a nose for yards. That goes back to his days at North Carolina State and is a big reason the Steelers drafted him in the fifth round this spring with plans, perhaps, for him to eventually replace Bell as a dual-threat back. Samuels refused to be denied of scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard reception Nov. 8 against Carolina and on a 10-yard catch Dec. 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers. He had 13- and 23-yard catches on what could have been a winning touchdown drive against Oakland in the previous game. …

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