The Green Bay Packers are looking to sign a free agent running back ahead of their preseason opener on Friday, and there’s a good chance that individual will be a former Steeler. On Tuesday the Packers worked out five running backs, including two who recently played in Pittsburgh, this according to the NFL’s daily transaction wire.
Candidate No. 1 is Jaylen Samuels, 26, who was a fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2018 out of North Carolina State. Samuels — 6-feet-tall and 225 pounds — seemed to have a promising future after a rookie year that saw him carry the ball 56 times for 256 yards (an average of 4.6 yards per carry), while also catching 26 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns. But his numbers declined precipitously in 2019-2020, so it was hardly a surprise when he failed to make the 53-man roster in 2021. He was deemed worthy of a spot on the practice squad, though, at least until October 27, when he was cut.
Samuels didn’t stay unemployed for long, however, as he signed to Houston’s practice squad following a tryout with the Texans, and he went on to appear in three games.
He went on to sign a one-year Reserve/Futures contract with the Arizona Cardinals in January 2022, a move that reunited him with former Steelers running backs coach James Saxon, not to mention former teammate James Conner. But he was released by the Cardinals on May 31, making him a free agent.
To date, Samuels has played in 45 regular-season games (with eight starts), having rushed 136 times for 468 yards and a touchdown, along with 85 receptions for 564 yards and four touchdown catches.
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Ex-Steelers candidate No. 2 is Kalen Ballage, 26, who entered the NFL with the Miami Dolphins via the fourth-round of the 2018 draft. The former Arizona State Sun Devil — 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds — spent the first two years of his career for the Dolphins; he was subsequently traded to the New York Jets and also played for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020.
The Steelers signed him in March 2021 and he appeared in all 17 regular-season games last season, rushing the ball 12 times for 36 yards and catching two passes for eight yards. He also played 98 snaps on special teams, as per Pro Football Reference.
To date, Ballage has played in 52 career games (with eight starts), having been credited with a total of 665 rushing yards and 293 receiving yards, with seven total touchdowns. His finest football moment came in 2016, when he tied the Football Bowl Subdivision record for most total touchdowns in a game, scoring eights TDs against Texas Tech, seven of which came on the ground.
Steelers Injury Update
The Steelers suffered only one new injury at practice on Tuesday August 9, this according to Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. The player in question is nose tackle Montravius Adams, who “got a little banged up on an inside run” and is being evaluated for an ankle injury.
Next man up at the position is Henry Mondeaux, as projected starter Tyson Alualu just recently came off the PUP list (on August 8), having nursed a knee injury for the past several weeks. Alualu, 35, missed all but two games of the 2021 season after suffering a season-ending broken ankle against the Las Vegas Raiders.
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