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.
Samuels ran twice for two yards and caught seven of eight targets for 40 yards during Sunday's 16-13 win over Cincinnati. Pittsburgh struggled on offense the first half, managing just 27 yards on the ground, and it was no surprise that Samuels was used more as a pass receiving back than a rusher with the return of James Conner (ankle) after a three-game absence. Samuels finishes his rookie season with 56 carries for 256 yards (4.6 average) and 26 catches (on 29 targets) for 199 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games. He has three years remaining on his current contract -- and with Le'Veon Bell (held out) likely to be playing elsewhere next season -- Samuels is the clear backup to James Conner heading in to the 2019 season.
Samuels ran for 53 yards on 12 attempts, adding three receptions for 11 yards and one touchdown during Sunday's 31-28 loss to New Orleans. His eligibility as a tight end on some outlets will be surely discussed for generations, but Samuels' production over the past three weeks has resembled that of a low-end RB1 -- 109.3 total yards per game, with 12 receptions and one touchdown during that span. If James Conner (ankle) is ruled out for a fourth consecutive contest in Week 17, Samuels will likely garner double-digit carries once again, while providing the benefit of a high pass-catching floor in PPR and standard formats alike. Opposing running backs have tortured Cincinnati all season, as the Bengals have allowed 20 total touchdowns to the position in 2018 (second most to only the Bills).
Samuels is slated to head the Pittsburgh backfield Sunday against the Saints with James Conner (ankle) sidelined for a third straight game, Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Samuels, who racked up 172 total yards against the Patriots last weekend, is expected to dominate the backfield snaps, leaving Stevan Ridley to handle only a light complementary role. The rookie will take aim at a Saints run defense that has allowed a league-low average of 79.1 rushing yards per game. Still, with double-digit carries and involvement in the passing game presumably on tap, Samuels represents a viable Week 16 fantasy lineup option.
Samuels is expected to retain his starting role in the Steelers' backfield with James Conner (ankle) likely unavailable Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Samuels should get the majority of the work out of the backfield, similar to Week 14 when the rookie compiled 92 total yards off of 18 touches. Stevan Ridley wound up vulturing a late red-zone touchdown in that contest, mitigating Samuels' fantasy value. With Conner expected to return to the field in Week 16, Sunday's contest against the Patriots might be one of the last opportunities for Samuels to showcase his versatile skillset this season.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/09||@New England Patriots||8||16.00|
|3||09/22||@San Francisco 49ers||20||19.00|
|6||10/14||@Los Angeles Chargers||24||20.00|
|10||11/10||Los Angeles Rams||14||17.26|
|16||12/22||@New York Jets||18||17.75|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||56||256||0||26||199||3||62|