The real replacement for Le’Veon Bell is … Jaylen Samuels?


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Jaylen Samuels at OTAs. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

One snap, Jaylen Samuels was at wideout.

Another, he was in the backfield.

Another, he was aligned to Ben Roethlisberger's left as de facto bodyguard.

"Everywhere, right?" the kid would tell me in confirming all of the above following the Steelers' OTA session Tuesday morning at the Rooney Complex. "But that's OK. I like it like that. Get me on the field. Challenge me to do something. I'll get the job done."

Everyone remembers Samuels, right?

If not, then maybe a reminder is merited of his 172 total yards against the Patriots this past season:

Catch the pattern in play?

Yep. Wideout. Backfield. Bodyguard. Did it all. Just like the New England victory. Just like his time at N.C. State, where he played just about every position except running back.

James Conner's fresh off a bone-crushing breakout. Benny Snell's the fresh-faced rookie in the fold. But Samuels might be in the best position -- literally -- to fill Le'Veon Bell's void. And if you ask me, that has him poised to make as much of a positive difference as anyone on the offense.

Never mind that he reported for OTAs 15 pounds lighter than last season -- pushed hard by Randy Fichtner to do precisely that -- with an primary aim of finding sharper acceleration on passing routes and hitting holes faster out of the backfield to better capitalize on his DeAngelo Williams slashing style.

On top of that, if Conner can carry the load again, and if Snell winds up even half as dynamic as most everyone here seems to be expecting, Samuels can pretty much entrench himself as the third down back ... if not more.

I asked Samuels if he felt a little forgotten amid all the fuss over Snell.

"I mean, it's always been like that all my life, throughout college, I've always been forgotten," Samuels told me through a slight smile. "I'm just waiting for the season to start. We'll see."

Good for him. Here's our whole talk:

Ideally, it plays out this way: Conner stays healthy. Snell shows the combined physicality/flair that both spells Conner and provides a different dimension. And Samuels cements himself into the portions of the playbook that once only Bell could fill. That can be split among drives, with Conner taking a couple and Snell the next, or it can be split among downs and situations, with Samuels available for a wild-card element.

Regardless, what's paramount over this summer is that all three, who've openly been speaking about being amenable to a multiple-back system, really mean it.

"I'm all for it," Conner was saying a few days ago. "Those guys are talented. I mean, obviously, who doesn't want the ball? But they can make some plays that I can't make. You look around the league, you see a lot of teams using multiple backs. I'm all for it."

Could be fun, huh?

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