Steelers' Jaylen Samuels to play role when James Conner returns
Even with signs pointing toward James Conner’s return to the Pittsburgh Steelers lineup, offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said Jaylen Samuels has earned the right keep a prominent role in the offense.
“No doubt he has,” Fichtner said after practice Thursday. “There was a spot we were originally trying to work him in also to be able to do: be that back who could give you some more dimension in the passing game, maybe take some situational football off of James’ hands, being a primary ball-toter.
“It would be great if (Samuels) could do that, and he’s proven that he can do that.”
A rookie fifth-round pick and converted tight end, Samuels played only two offensive snaps over the first six games of the season. He gradually was worked into the gameplan after the Week 7 bye — appearing in 37 snaps over the next five games — before Conner suffered an ankle injury late in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 2.
Samuels has served as the Steelers’ featured back since, accumulating 223 rushing yards and 105 receiving yards over the past three games.
But Conner was a full participant in each of the first two practices this week, an indication he could play in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.