Courtesy of Point Park University

Friday Insider: Two-back set? Here they go ☕


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Jaylen Samuels got 13 snaps Sunday in the Steelers' 33-3 loss at New England and it wasn't because the Patriots were winning the game by a bunch.

OK, that might have had a little something to do with it.

But the Steelers went into that game intent on using both Samuels and starter James Conner, sometimes even on the field together. We saw glimpses of that package in the offseason and preseason, and the Steelers did use both Conner and Samuels on the field together once against New England.

Moving forward, we might see it even more.

"We actually went into the game with a pretty extensive Pony Package to have both running backs in the game at the same time," Randy Fichtner confirmed Thursday. "It's a unique balance to keep both guys fresh, especially early in the season. It just never seemed like it flowed enough."

The 13 snaps in a game in which Conner played a full game -- well, if you want to call it that -- was a first for Samuels, a second-year player. The only other time that happened in 2018 was in a blowout win against the Panthers in which Conner was pulled early and Samuels got 18 snaps in the fourth quarter.

"I'm willing to help contribute however I can. Thirteen reps was a lot compared to what I got last year early in the season. I wasn't getting any reps early in the season," Samuels told me. "For me to get that in the first game, it was pretty good. But I'm willing to build on that."

The plan this year is to play both running backs at the same time. And that could mean there are times when one of the two could even be asked to block for the other -- especially since the Steelers are expected to be without Roosevelt Nix for the next two to three weeks because of a knee injury.

That's not to say Samuels or Conner will line up at fullback, but they could be asked to block on the edge after splitting out wide.

"Once we are both on the field, (opponents) know one of us is more of a skill guy and the other one is a runner," Samuels said. "That's why I worked so hard in this offseason to work on my blocking, so he can run the ball and I can go block or I can run the ball and he can go block. We can really do anything out of that set. We're trying to get it going."

Samuels is a little different from most "third down" backs around the league. He's not a scat back. He's listed at 225 pounds, though he said he's closer to 220 this season.

"I feel like we can really get this thing going with two backs if we execute while we're out there," Samuels told me.

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