On Wednesday January 19 the Arizona Cardinals signed former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels to a Reserve/Futures contract. It’s not a surprise that the Cardinals decided to ink Samuels, as the move reunites him with former Steelers running backs coach James Saxon.
The latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!
Note that Samuels had the best season of his career (as a rookie) while being coached by Saxon, much like ex-Steelers running back James Conner, whose best season in Pittsburgh came during Saxon’s final year with the Steelers (2018). (For his part, Conner was reunited with Saxon shortly after a successful tryout with the Cardinals in April 2021.)
Conner went on to boldly predict that he and fellow Cards teammate Chase Edmonds would be “one of the best” running back tandems in the league. Conner held up his part of the bargain, scoring touchdown after touchdown (with the help of former Steelers offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum), as Arizona cruised to a 10-2 start before slumping to a first-round playoff exit.
All told, Conner played in 15 games (with six starts) in 2021, carrying the ball 202 times for 752 yards with 37 receptions for another 375 yards. But those numbers belie his real value, as he scored 18 touchdowns, 15 of which came via rush.
Samuels has to hope that some of Saxon’s magic rubs off on him, too. The former fifth-round pick (North Carolina State) served as a nice complement to Conner in 2018, when he rushed 56 times for 256 yards and caught 26 passes for 199 yards and had three touchdown receptions.
Samuels played three full seasons with the Steelers. Then in 2021 he failed to make the 53-man roster, though the team signed him to its practice squad a day later. It was there he remained until October 27, when he was released in favor of Anthony McFarland Jr.
Samuels soon found a new job, however, in the wake of a workout with the Houston Texans, who signed him to their practice squad and went on to utilize him in three games.
All together, the 25-year-old Samuels has 136 career carries for 468 yards and one rushing touchdown, as per Pro Football Reference, plus 85 catches for 564 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Samuels may not have fond memories of State Farm Stadium, though. During Pittsburgh’s 23-17 win in December 2019, he absorbed a helmet-dislodging hit from Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks, who is one of his new teammates.
On the other hand, he’ll fit right in with all the ex-Steelers players/coaches who work in Arizona, including run game coordinator/offensive line coach Sean Kugler and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, the latter of whom was a second-round pick of the Steelers in 1994 and played three seasons in Pittsburgh.
CB Breon Borders Returns to the Cardinals
Meanwhile, on Wednesday the Cardinals also signed cornerback Breon Borders to a Reserve/Futures contract; he originally joined the Cardinals in December 2021 but was released prior to Arizona’s Wild Card loss to the Rams.
Borders signed with the Steelers on April 16, 2020, but was waived in August 2020 to make room for fellow cornerback Justin Layne. Later that year he earned a starting role with the Tennessee Titans. This past summer he seemed poised to continue building on his success with the Titans, but failed to make it through the entire season in Tennessee, hence his move to Arizona.
To date, Borders has appeared in 31 regular season games, with six starts. He has been credited with 42 tackles (35 solo), along with one interception, one fumble recovery and seven passes defensed.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Other News & Notes
On Wednesday January 19, the Steelers removed rookie linebacker Buddy Johnson and second-year cornerback James Pierre from the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Johnson remains on injured reserve, however.
A day earlier, the Philadelphia Eagles signed former Steelers wide receiver Deon Cain to a Reserve/Futures contract. Cain is a former sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts who played in eight games for the Steelers in from 2019 to 2020. He looked to catch on with the Baltimore Ravens this past summer but was waived in late August 2021.
Also on January 18, the Cincinnati Bengals terminated the contract of practice squad long snapper Colin Holba, who was a sixth-round pick of the Steelers in 2017.
• Steelers Re-Sign LS, Christian Kuntz, Add Ex-Raiders Fourth-Round Pick
• Brett Keisel Claps Back After Ex-Browns All-Pro Tries to Troll Steelers
• Broncos Awarded Ex-Steelers Punter Off Waivers
• Joe Haden Has Message for Steelers Fans After Blowout Loss to Chiefs
• Steelers Legend Hines Ward Interviews for NFL Head Coaching Vacancy