Frequently bottled up in Week 14 by a Raiders run defense that was among the worst in the league coming in, Samuels played like a man unleashed Sunday. The rookie frequently found expansive running lanes against an over-matched Patriots front, and he particularly enjoyed success on counter plays that frequently seemed to catch New England defenders off balance. Samuels also appeared to run much more decisively than he had in his starting debut versus the Raiders, and his performance certainly has to give Steelers coaches confidence in his ability to fill for James Conner (ankle) in Week 16 against the Saints if necessary. Conner's outlook for that contest isn't likely to be known until late in the week, so owners of either player will have to monitor the situation frequently heading into the showdown against New Orleans.
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, but Stevan Ridley wound up vulturing a late red zone touchdown in that contest, mitigating Samuels' fantasy value. With James Conner (ankle) 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.
With Conner out of the lineup last Sunday in Oakland, Samuels earned the majority of the snaps (48 of on offense) among active Pittsburgh running backs. Samuels also outpaced Stevan Ridley in touches (18 to five) and yards from scrimmage (92 to four), but the latter did score a touchdown. If Conner returns this weekend, all bets are off as to how much work Samuels and Ridley reasonably can expect to see. However, the above breakdown may be the reality if Conner sits out again, helping Samuels maintain relevance for another week.
Samuels couldn't deliver much on the ground, but he did offer a pretty decent James Conner (knee) impression through the air. The rookie seemed to lack explosiveness on many of his runs, although he also appeared to have precious little in terms of rushing lanes on some of his carries. Samuels could be in line for another starting opportunity in a critical Week 15 matchup versus the Patriots if Conner remains sidelined, although it's possible that veteran Stevan Ridley also logs more than the five carries he saw Sunday.
Samuels, who will start Sunday's game against the Raiders, said he received more first-team work than fellow running back Stevan Ridley during the Steelers' practices this week, but only by a small margin, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.
The Steelers are without James Conner (ankle) for the first time all season, leaving Samuels, a rookie fifth-round pick, as the next man up on the depth chart to fill the backfield void. Though his skills as a pass catcher make him a more viable fantasy option in Week 14 than Ridley, Samuels' comments point to the Steelers making use of both players rather than just handing Samuels the lead role outright. Even so, Samuels' status as a tight end-eligible player in certain fantasy formats makes him worthy of including in lineups at least in those leagues, with the North Carolina State also offering some decent upside in leagues where he's only usable at running back or in a flex spot.
|16||12/23/18||@ NO||4:25 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|