Conner, Samuels Want to Keep Brady Off Field

After big game vs Pats as Rookie, Samuels leaner, shiftier

Josh Rowntree
September 06, 2019 - 2:06 pm

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - There are not many tried-and-true ways to beat Tom Brady. After all, Brady has won over 75 percent of his games, including all five career starts against the Steelers at Gillette Stadium.

But, if Pittsburgh is able to topple Brady and the Patriots when its season begins Sunday night in Massachusetts, one method might be its ability to keep Brady on the sidelines. 

And that starts with the run game, which flexed its muscles against New England in December of last season, a game which the Steelers won, 17-10, despite not having running back James Conner available.

In that game, Jaylen Samuels, then a rookie, ran for 142 yards on 19 carries and caught two passes for 30 yards. 

“He found the opening,” Pittsburgh right guard David DeCastro said. “There were some creases there. They’ll probably adjust to it after what happened last time. But who knows. We’ll go out there and see what happens.”

“Their defense has always been a smart defense,” left guard Ramon Foster added. “I’m sure they’re catch us in bad spots, put us in bad spots, also. We’ve got to push past that. I know their antennas are probably up right now.”

Pittsburgh’s veteran offensive line led the way that day for Samuels, who has trimmed down by about 10 pounds, something he thinks can take his game to the next level.

“I definitely can be way better,” he said of his film review from that game. “I looked kind of heavy out there. I feel way better. I cut a couple of pounds down, my body’s feeling good. I could have made different cuts than I did. This year I’m looking to, overall, better my game against the Patriots. Hopefully we can get a team victory. That’s all I’m looking forward to.”

Samuels averaged 7.5 yards per carry in that game. 

“It was just a big game for him,” said Conner, who will be able to play Sunday night. “He always plays confident, he trusts his hands and he’s a talented runner, as well. It might’ve helped him, but he’s always has confidence.”

Conner has been picking the brain of Samuels heading into the opener.

“He’s been asking me what to expect from them,” Samuels said. “They’re good football players. They get paid just like how we get paid. They’re going to be in the right position and we’ve just got to make guys miss. We’ve got to find their weak spots and attack it.”

The strong ground in 2018 happened at Heinz Field. Now the rivalry shifts to Foxborough, a house of horrors for the Steelers over the years.

“Road is always hard to win at,” Foster said. “But it’s one of those things where we’ve got to establish ourselves. Everything that we did last year, they’re going to try to counter it.  We’ve got to make sure that we’re on our job, on our detail and communicating correctly.”

While Conner is going to be the feature back, Samuels should get his touches. His versatility can’t be kept off the field, as he can line up as a receiver or as a runner, something that playing as a college tight end helps with. 

Now, with more of a leaner frame, that versatility will be aided. And Pittsburgh hopes that it comes in handy early.

“He’s grown,” Foster said of Samuels. “You can tell just by looking at him. He’s a guy that’s taking his job seriously. It comes down to his execution and ours up front. 

“Not only that, we’ve got Conner this time around, too. So it’s us trying to balance all of that and make sure that we get those guys running no matter who is in the backfield.”

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