It may only be three games in, but there has been noticeable decline in running back Jaylen Samuels' usage rate.
With the addition of speedster running back Anthony McFarland Jr. in this year's draft, Samuels has taken a backseat from a load perspective, to him, Benny Snell Jr., and starting running back James Conner.
If anything, the Pittsburgh Steelers has garnered much success with the aforementioned trio in their first three games this season. Snell Jr. produced the first 100-yard rushing game after week one victory over the New York Giants. In weeks two and three, Conner produced back-to-back 100-yard rushing games, while contributing as a pass catcher with eight receptions for 63 yards. In their most recent victory over the Houston Texans, McFarland Jr. displayed the type of speed that made him a household name with Maryland, and played a key role in their success on the ground.
For Samuels, he has seen the occasional snaps, but not nearly to the same degree as he saw his first two seasons. Last season alone, he played 362 offensive snaps, filling in admirably during Conner's absences due to injury. This season, he has seen 31 snaps on defense, and has little leeway to contribute the way he has been accustomed since his rookie season. Even with the decrease in snaps, few players in his position carry his level of versatility.
"He's continuing to be impressive with his versatility", head coach Mike Tomlin said about Samuel in his post-practice press conference early last month. "I think that's the thing that has always kind of distinguished him in a competitive setting among his peers; his ability to do a variety things at a relatively high level, particularly in the passing game and outside the backfield with his hand and route running. It is above the line from a running back perspective."
Perhaps his decline in usage is indicative of his future status with the Steelers. Yet, as the season goes on and injuries take place, Samuels may find himself once against showing everyone the many dimensions of his value to the team