Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert mentioned Samuels as a factor in why the team is comfortable letting Le'Veon Bell leave in free agency this offseason, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
James Conner is also a big part of the equation, not to mention the financial aspect and Bell's fractured relationship with the team. There was never a realistic scenario for Bell to rejoin the Steelers after sitting out an entire season, especially after the team saw what Conner and Samuels are capable of doing in heightened roles. Conner should enter training camp unchallenged as a starter, while Samuels made a strong case to log most of the action on passing downs after hauling in 26 of 29 targets for 199 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Conner was also productive in the passing game, but he doesn't have comparable receiving upside to Samuels, who often lined up as a tight end and H-back at North Carolina State.