The James Conner show just became the Jaylen Samuels show for the Pittsburgh Steelers, at least for one week. After Conner suffered a leg injury during the team’s Week 13 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, there didn’t seem to be much concern about his status moving forward. But that changed on Monday, as the team’s starting running back will miss at least one game.
As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin made it known Conner would sit out the game against the Oakland Raiders.
It’s a tough blow for the Steelers, as they find themselves at 7-4-1 after the loss to the Chargers, just narrowly ahead of the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North. With Samuels now set to do the heavy lifting in Week 14, let’s take a look at whether he’s a fantasy football start or sit.
Matchup and Workload for Jaylen Samuels
Much of the decision on how to approach Samuels will come down to your specific situation. If you’re in need of a one-week (or possibly a bit longer) filler, then the rookie out of North Carolina State could make sense. The matchup against the Raiders isn’t daunting, as they’ve allowed 1,566 yards on 307 carries to opposing running backs this year. Along with that, Oakland has given up 40 receptions for 413 yards through the air with 12 combined touchdowns.
It’s a fine spot for Samuels, who’s coming off a fairly quiet game, but one in which he saw a bump in touches after Conner’s injury. Samuels only had two rushing attempts for five yards but caught all three of his targets for 20 yards and one touchdown.
There’s unquestionable value in Samuels’ game from a fantasy perspective, but a big question will be whether he can handle a large workload. Regardless, his main backfield competition in Stevan Ridley hasn’t been involved over the past three games at all, pointing to the fact that the rookie is the new top option at this point.
As ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler revealed, Samuels will start against the Raiders, but he will split time with Ridley. He still makes sense as a fine fantasy option.
Should You Start or Sit Jaylen Samuels?
Barring a change to the Steelers depth chart, it’s hard not to like the appeal of Samuels from a fantasy perspective. Specifically, the young back has a lot of value in point-per-reception leagues at this point. Unless Pittsburgh opts to flip the script and give Ridley a primary role, Samuels looks set to receive his chance to prove he can handle a larger workload.
Based on the Raiders allowing 5.1 yards per carry and struggling defensively, along with a huge workload boost, there’s no issue using Samuels in fantasy leagues in Week 14. I’d primarily stick to PPR leagues if at all possible, but if you have a need for a RB or flex play in 12-team leagues or above, you could do far worse than the 22-year-old.