Could Jaylen Samuels play more of a tight end role in 2020

Jaylen Samuels Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Jaylen Samuels Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers moved Jaylen Samuels to a full-time running back after being drafted in 2018. Could he revert back to a role as a tight end?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a bit of a predicament on the offensive side of the ball heading into the 2020 season. Though they have spent a draft choice on a running back each of the past four seasons, there’s no guarantee there will be room for all of them on the roster.

Kevin Colbert is a general manager who typically likes to roster just three running backs at a time – meaning someone would be demoted to the practice squad. However, each of their runners are still under their rookie contracts and they each do something different for the team.

James Conner has had an incredible amount of difficulty trying to stay healthy, but he projects as the primary back who can play all three downs. Benny Snell is a young, power back for the Steelers who is entering his second season, while Anthony McFarland was drafted this year to give Pittsburgh some much-needed speed at the running back position.

This leaves Jaylen Samuels. Samuels was a former tight end convert who made the transition to running back entering the NFL. However, he hasn’t proven to be overly effective as a runner. Last year, he rushed for just 2.7 yards per carry and earned a 54.4 overall grade, according to Pro Football Focus.

What Samuels does do well, however, is catch the football. Through his first two NFL seasons, Samuels has caught 73 of 86 targets for 504 yards and 4 touchdowns. With Ben Roethlisberger as a rookie, Samuels reeled in 26 of 29 targets (90 percent) for 7.7 yards per catch and 3 touchdowns.

The former NC State product is by no means a special running back, but his receiving ability is something that Pittsburgh covets. Because of this and a surplus of running backs, could the Steelers keep Jaylen Samuels around to play more of a ‘move’ tight end role for the Steelers?

Samuels was terrific in this capacity in college, but his 6’0”, 225-pound frame made Pittsburgh move him to running back upon being drafted in 2018. However, there are a few reasons a change could work.

Even though the Steelers signed Eric Ebron this offseason, they are still just two-deep at the tight end position (and that is with Vance McDonald really struggling last year). Zach Gentry is a raw player with limited upside, so it’s possible that Samuels could take his spot on the active roster as a way to keep another tight end/running back.

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Jaylen Samuels is never going to be the lead dog for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his reliability on passing downs makes him an asset the team will not want to lose. If Mike Tomlin is willing to slide him to a ‘move’ tight end role, perhaps he can stick around and even make a bigger impact than he has in his first two NFL seasons.