We will just address it here and it get it over with quick. Le’Veon Bell is not going to miss NFL games next season. The Pittsburgh Steelers are not going to rescind his tag either. He is going to hold out, probably until the same time as a year ago. Then, he is going to play for a contract.
Le’Veon Bell is playing to prove his market value once and for all. He wants his value as high as possible. That means career numbers, not missed starts. With that said, we are moving on. Le’Veon Bell is very unlikely to be with the Pittsburgh Steelers next season. He also has a track record of injuries. This brings two questions worth following into training camp?
If Bell went down this season with an injury, who would the team roll with between James Conner and Jaylen Samuels? How much more do the Steelers need to add to a Samuels, Conner duo to have a legitimate cast at running back?
If Bell gets hurt, the Steelers are going to have all hands on deck at running back. However, they will rely on their two young backs primarily. The duo is nice together because they contrast off of each other well. James Conner is a downhill runner. He is a between the tackles, plodder. A former defensive end, he plays with physical intentions in the backfield as well. He is also a decisive runner, who sees his hole and hits his hole.
On the other side, you have Jaylen Samuels, a former tight end/fullback who plays running back. With his tight end background, he catches the football well. Jaylen Samuels had 201 receptions compared to 182 rushes at North Carolina State. James Conner had 668 rushes and 30 receptions at Pitt.
Samuels is a player who gets the ball in open space and makes people miss. He is not afraid to move laterally before getting vertical. It is a nice mesh in style between the two. When it comes down to it, when Le’Veon Bell is healthy, Samuels is likely to see the field more. There has been a new revolution as the league has shifted nickel heavy. Teams like the New England Patriots are bringing multiple running backs and tight ends on the field to look heavy which indicates run. However, with Dion Lewis Rex Burkhead, and Rob Gronkowski, teams still have to bring in extra defensive backs to defend the pass.
Having Jaylen Samuels on the field with Le’Veon Bell and Vance McDonald, the same idea would be in mind. Either running back can spread out to the slot or out wide and catch the football. Either can line up in the backfield and run the ball. However, when Bell goes down, can Samuels handle a workload?
That is a nice gimmick for a play here and a series there, but if the team needs a back to stand between the tackles and grind out games, can they trust Samuels for that?
This is where the team would lean much more heavily on a split backfield. Still, the question from there becomes, how valuable is Conner in the passing game? Is it a hard sell when he is on the field that the team is going to run the football? Can they keep him on the field for passing downs if he is bringing little as a skill player? It gets tricky.
Everybody talks about letting Le’Veon Bell walk because the trio of Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and LeGarrette Blount helped the Philadelphia Eagles win a Super Bowl. It seems like with the pass-catching prowess, the Steelers can have their Clement in Jaylen Samuels. With a downhill head of steam, the Steelers could find what they always wanted from Blount in James Conner. Still, the team is missing their Jay Ajayi. No, it does not have to cost as much as Le’Veon Bell. However, the team should not feel comfortable with the backfield moving forward if Bell were to get hurt or leave. Of course, as a summer goes by with Le’Veon Bell holding out, James Conner and Jaylen Samuels will both get plenty of chances to change that notion.