Jaylen Samuels Fantasy: Start or Sit Steelers RB in Week 12?

Getty Jaylen Samuels of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back James Conner returned to the team’s lineup in Week 11 after a two-game hiatus due to injury. Unfortunately, Conner would go on to re-aggravate a preexisting shoulder injury in his first game back on the playing field.

The injury would linger on into the practice week and eventually force Pittsburgh’s hand, having the Steelers rule Conner out for Sunday’s contest.

With Conner once again sidelined, Jaylen Samuels will once again be asked to help carry the load in the Steelers backfield. Will Samuels’ added workload lead to a monster outing against the division rival Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12? Let’s discuss.

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Jaylen Samuels’ Fantasy Outlook vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Jaylen Samuels has started two of the past three games at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday will mark his third start of the season, as James Conner continues to deal with a shoulder injury.

Over the past few weeks, Samuels has been fairly productive from a fantasy standpoint. The running back has averaged 17.4 fantasy points in two of the past three weeks. This seems like the type of production you’d like to have in your lineups for Week 12, right? Well, not so fast.

In Samuels’ two games as a starter this season, he’s averaged a combined 2.1 yards per carry. He’s also failed to eclipse 29 yards rushing in any game this season. The Steelers have obviously taken notice of his struggles as a runner, a likely reason why they have continued to shy away from featuring Samuels in the run game despite the limited bodies at the position.

In fact, in Samuels’ inaugural start of 2019, he didn’t even lead the team in rushing attempts, nor yards. That honor goes to Trey Edmunds, a former tight end, current fullback/running hybrid who averaged 6.1 ypc on 14 carries that day.

This week, Samuels will not only have to fend off Edmunds for touches, but also Benny Snell Jr., who will be returning from a knee injury this week. Steelers coaches seem enthralled about the prospects of having Snell Jr. back in the fold. In his most recent full game of play, Snell Jr. led the team in rushing attempts and yards, and that was with a healthy James Conner in the lineup.

Despite Samuels’ limitations as a runner this season, he will always present stellar upside in PPR-scoring formats, as he is one of the better receiving backs in all of football. In fact, with JuJu Smith-Schuster ruled out and Diontae Johnson hobbled by injury, Samuels may very well end up being the team’s top receiving target in the passing game this Sunday.

Samuels and the Steelers have a more than welcoming matchup this week against the Cincinnati Bengals. Cinci has been extremely generous to opposing running backs this year, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to the position on a per-game basis. They’ve allowed starting RBs to either rush for 100-yards or find the end zone in every game this season.

Should You Start or Sit Jaylen Samuels in Week 12?

While some have pegged Samuels as “start of the week” at his position, I am certainly a bit more wary of his outlook. I’d be hard-pressed to rely on Samuels as a starter in standard leagues, as his ineffectiveness as a runner, paired with his lack of usage in the run game, are way too big of a risk to take.

With that said, if you’re in a league that operates on full-point PPR scoring, he deserves a spot in your starting lineup, likely as an RB3/FLEX. Cinci has not allowed a running back to eclipse three receptions against them in six games. The last running back to do so? Jaylen Samuels, who hauled in eight receptions back in Week 4.

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