Add Samuels, out at least a month, to injury list


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Jaylen Samuels. – MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

So much for the Wildcat for the Steelers -- at least with Jaylen Samuels.

The Steelers won't be scrapping it because it didn't work -- though it didn't in Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Ravens -- but because they won't have Samuels available. Samuels had a knee scoped on Monday and Mike Tomlin said the backup running back will be out for at least a month, starting with Sunday's game in Los Angeles against the Chargers.

"He had a knee sprain," Tomlin said. "As we get closer through this process, we'll know more about the timetable. That's something that showed up after the game. We had him evaluated and saw that was necessary and made the decision to fix it and fix it ASAP."

Samuels, a second-year player out of North Carolina State, was hardly the only injury of significance the Steelers suffered against the Ravens. Mason Rudolph, who has been subbing for injured starter Ben Roethlisberger, was knocked out of the game with a concussion from a helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Earl Thomas.

Rudolph is in the league's concussion protocol, but did make an appearance at the team's practice facility Monday.

"He was in the building yesterday and he appears to be fine, at least in terms of communicating," Tomlin said. "I won't have a lot of details of where he is in the protocol or speculate what that is or the time table of it. I've been at this long enough to know that I'm not a medical expert.

"When he's available to us, he's available to us."

Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges is expected to make his first career start with Rudolph likely out. Former Broncos' first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch is expected to be elevated from the practice squad to serve as Hodges' backup.

"He has an awareness, a savvy and moxie about him that's beyond his experience," Tomlin said of Hodges. "It was evident in Latrobe. He carried it into the preseason. He's given us a little insight that he's capable of doing it regular season in-stadium. Obviously, he lacks experience and a lot of things that go with experience, but I like his steady-Eddy attitude. It's an asset to us in the present circumstances."

Starting wide receiver James Washington suffered a shoulder injury and had his injured left arm in a sling on Monday. Tomlin said he is questionable to play against the Chargers, as are linebacker Mark Barron (hamstring) and cornerback Steven Nelson (groin). Of that group, Tomlin sounded the most optimistic about Nelson playing this week.

Fullback Roosevelt Nix (knee) and linebacker Anthony Chickillo (ankle) both are nearing a return, though they also are questionable this week.

With Samuels out, rookie Bennie Snell is expected to take a more prominent role behind starter James Conner in the backfield, not that the Steelers are necessarily running the ball much, anyway.

The Steelers' 95 rushing attempts thus far this season are third-fewest in the league among teams that have played five games. Samuels has 18 carries for 50 yards and 13 receptions for an additional 83 yards. He's also attempted five passes out of the Wildcat, completing four -- though all but one has been a forward pitch. His lone downfield pass was intercepted last Sunday by the Ravens.

Snell, a fourth-round draft pick out of Kentucky, has six carries for 30 yards this season, playing mostly on special teams.

"I believe that he is," Tomlin said when asked if Snell was ready to take on a larger role. "I know he's champing at the bit to be a contributor. He's a high-energy young guy. He's been productive on special teams. And usually, production on special teams is an indicator in terms of offensive or defensive readiness."

The Steelers also could make a move to add another running back to their roster, with Trey Edmunds being the likely candidate to be elevated from the practice squad.

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