PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When it was announced that starting Steelers running back James Conner would not be available for Sunday’s game against the Raiders, fans wondered who would be the next man up for the team.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin said during his weekly press conference that the Steelers would most likely employ a running back by committee heading into the weekend.
After a few roster moves, let’s meet the running back corps that will be leading Pittsburgh into Oakland.
PROJECTED STARTER: Rookie Jaylen Samuels
The 22-year-old rookie out of NC State was the Steelers 5th round pick in the 2018 NFL draft. Known for playing multiple positions in college including running back, fullback, wide receiver and tight end, Samuels is a hybrid player that can both run and catch.
In his senior season with the Wolfpack, he broke the school record for career receptions (202) over a span of four years.
The Steelers have used Samuels in multiple ways during the limited playing time he has accrued in 2018. To date, Samuels has 12 carries for 31 yards as well as 7 catches for 54 years and 2 receiving touchdowns. He assumes to be the starter heading into Sunday’s game against Oakland according to a locker room interview conducted on Wednesday.
BACKUP: Veteran Stevan Ridley
The 29-year-old is best known for his stint in New England as he was drafted by the Pats in the 3rd round in 2011. Ridley was a member of the Super Bowl XLIX team that defeated the Seattle Seahawks. His best season was in 2012, when he totaled 290 carries for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.
After an ACL tear in 2014, his career has been on a downhill slide with unsuccessful stops on multiple rosters including the Jets, Lions, Colts, Falcons, Broncos and Vikings before signing with the Steelers in December of 2017. Ridley was needed as depth to a depleted backfield that was without James Conner due to an season-ending injury. Ridley rushed for 108 yards and a score in just two games with Pittsburgh that season.
Ridley re-signed with Pittsburgh in the offseason to a one year deal. So far in 2018 he has appeared in 7 games with 56 yards on 18 carries and another 18 yards from 3 catches. He also had a fumble lost against Cleveland at the end of October.
Ridley looks to be a complementary back with Jaylen Samuels against Oakland. The veteran will most likely be used the more than he has in any game this season.
BACKUP: Veteran Trey Edmunds
The 23-year-old was an undrafted rookie out of Maryland in 2017. He was picked up by New Orleans and spent the whole season with the organization gathering 48 yards on 9 rushes with one score.
The back was signed to the Steelers practice squad in September. He is brothers with Steelers 2018 1st round pick safety Terrell Edmunds.
With little NFL experience, look for Edmunds to be used sparingly Sunday against Oakland. His addition to the active roster was merely a depth move that will only last until James Conner returns from his sprained ankle. His size (6′ 1″ 223 lbs.) makes him a possible short yardage back, but look to see Samuels and Ridley carry a bulk of the workload this weekend.