Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner enjoyed the best performance of his 2019 campaign one week ago on Monday Night Football. The Pro-Bowler from a season ago rumbled his way to a prolific 24 point fantasy outing.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, Conner, and Conner fantasy owners, the running back also sustained a shoulder injury in the midst of his stellar performance from Week 8.
Conner failed to practice at all this week, and his likelihood of suiting up for Week 9 is currently bleak to none, as the Steelers have deemed him doubtful.
Without Conner in the Pittsburgh backfield on Sunday, does a now-healthy Jaylen Samuels become a fantasy must-start vs. the Indianapolis Colts? Let’s take a look.
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Jaylen Samuels’ Fantasy Outlook vs. Indianapolis Colts
It has been nearly a month since we’ve seen Jaylen Samuels play a football game, as he’s missed multiple weeks with an injury. Plus he had a Week 7 bye sandwiched between the two games.
Samuels is now back to full strength, and it could have not come at a better time. We are all well aware of James Conner’s shoulder injury which will all but certainly keep him out this coming week. However, Conner is not the only running back dealing with an injury. Rookie Benny Snell had knee surgery earlier this week and will miss a handful of games. That leaves Samuels, fourth-string running back Trey Edmunds, and fullback Roosevelt Nix as the only other healthy ball carriers on the Steelers roster. In other words, Samuels is in for a monster workload on Sunday afternoon.
While Samuels has been deligated to a reserve role for much of this season, carrying the ball more than three times just once, he has shown in the past that he’s capable of manning lead-back duties.
From Week 14 through Week 16 of the 2018 season, Samuels made his only three starts of his rookie campaign. Over that time span, the do-it-all running back averaged 109.3 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches finishing as a top-15 PPR running back for those three weeks.
While Samuels will likely be given the opportunity to duplicate those numbers on Sunday due to the projected abundance of touches, he may find it difficult to accumulate similar production. The Indianapolis Colts are one of the stingiest fantasy defenses in terms of defending the running back position.
Indy has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs this season. They’ve yet to allow a runner to eclipse 89 rushing yards in a single game this year and have held all but three opposing running backs to 59 rushing yards or less. While they’ve been stout in the yardage department, a major reason for the Colts’ defensive success of late is their ability to keep running backs out of the endzone. Since Week 1, Indianapolis has allowed just two total touchdowns to the position.
It is, however, worth noting that the Broncos duo of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay combined for an impressive outing against the Colts one week ago. Together, Freeman and Lindsay totaled 121 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown on 26 rushing attempts and six receptions. Those numbers combined equated to 24.10 fantasy points, which would have fittingly enough usurped James Conner for the seventh highest-scoring output for a running back in Week 8.
Should You Start or Sit Jaylen Samuels in Week 9?
The matchup is certainly a difficult one for Samuels. To make matters worse, starting guard Ramon Foster has been ruled out for the contest with an injury.
However, the Dever duo of running backs proved last week that the Indy defense is not impenetrable. Samuels can impact the game in a multitude of facets and should see a hefty workload on Sunday. Expect Pittsburgh to feature their running back for an offense that is talent depleted.
Samuels’ projected usage and skill set makes him a solid RB3 in PPR-scoring formats, with mid-teir RB2 upside.
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