The running back situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers seems pretty cut-and-dry on the surface. That is, assuming Le’Veon Bell shows up for work. But if he doesn’t, then things get interesting, specifically for fantasy football players.
There’s no question that 2017 third-round pick James Conner is the next man up for the Steelers, but is there another player worth considering along with him? After Bell opted to skip Monday’s practice just days prior to the team’s Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, as Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review revealed, it’s time to consider all options.
The 26-year-old electrifying running back has yet to sign his $14.54 million franchise tag, and from a fantasy football perspective, this is a brutally tough situation to gauge. But the first move for Bell owners, without question, is to grab Conner.
If we’re assuming Bell opts to skip games and his return timeframe remains up in the air, is rookie Jaylen Samuels also worth using a waiver on? It seems like a smart move.
Jaylen Samuels’ Fantasy Football Value
There’s no denying that Samuels is a real fantasy football wild card, but adding him could prove to be a move that pays off, especially in point-per-reception leagues. While Conner showcased his pass-catching abilities in the preseason, hauling in six passes for 52 yards against the Tennessee Titans, Samuels could be an exceptional option as the go-to pass-catching back.
Samuels’ preseason was a mixed bag, as had had just two carries for zero yards in the finale. But in the previous game against the Titans, he rushed 11 times for 41 yards and caught four passes for 36 yards. The rookie out of North Carolina State also had a strong performance against the Green Bay Packers in the second preseason game, rushing nine times for 38 yards and scoring one touchdown, while also tallying three catches.
The rookie fifth-round pick transitioned to running back at the NFL level after being a jack of all trades in college. Throughout his four seasons with the Wolfpack, Samuels caught 201 passes for 1,851 yards and 19 touchdowns while also rushing 182 times for 1,107 yards and 28 scores. His ability to both excel as a runner and pass-catcher could help him push for playing time.
Conner will be the top fantasy football target on the Steelers if Bell’s holdout continues, but for those in PPR or 14-plus team leagues, Samuels is worth the waiver wire add.