Jaylen Samuels: Steelers RB duo 'could be really scary'

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Much of the offseason focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers thus far centers around the players no longer with the team. As we inch closer to the start of the 2019 campaign, attention can turn to the athletes still on the Steelers' squad.

During OTAs, Pittsburgh practiced a two-RB formation, with James Conner and Jaylen Samuels lined up together in the backfield. It's a tandem the Steelers could employ more in 2019.

"We did a little bit of it [last season], but we didn't really run it in a game, so I guess this year we're going to try and put that a little more in the offense," Samuels said Thursday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think that could be kind of special with me and [Conner] in the backfield. Me and him in the game, period. We're just building on from that right now... He's more of a runner and a catcher, as well, but I can get outside and run routes, as well. To have that dual threat with me and him in the game, it could be really scary for defenses."

Most scoffed when management suggested earlier this offseason that the Steelers could run an RB committee. It's something Pittsburgh has never done under Tomlin's watch. Utilizing multiple backs, however, makes perfect sense.

With question marks in the receiver corps behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Vance McDonald the only proven, consistent receiving threat from the tight end position, the Steelers could use Samuels' receiving acumen in the passing game.

Samuels enters his second season after displaying flashes of his dual-threat ability taking over for an injured Conner down the stretch. In three starts, the 22-year-old compiled 223 yards rushing on 42 carries, a 5.3 yards per tote average (including 142 yards on 19 carries against the New England Patriots). He also generated two seven-catch games last season.

Entering last year's draft, some scouts considered the 6-foot, 225-pound Samuels a tight end -- if you played fantasy football last season, you'll likely remember the controversy involved late in the year. N.C. State coaches defined Samuels as an H-back, per NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein, deploying him in multiple roles, but mostly using him as a pass-catcher.

The Steelers could take advantage of that pass-catching ability to buffer their receiver corps and become a diverse menace out of the backfield. Much like the Patriots utilize James White's pass-catching skills, Pittsburgh could use multiple backs to keep defenses off balance.

"Oh, man, Jaylen?" Conner said when asked about his running back mate. "He's super talented. (Two-back sets are) something we've had in for a little while, but I think we're going to use it a little more this year, and I'm excited about it because we're both really talented. So it kind of puts the defense in a mix of who they really want to pay attention to because he's shown what he can do."

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