Balancing act: A balanced offense is something that you hear every offensive coordinator talk about, but balance doesn’t always mean the old 50/50 split between running and passing the ball. There is a lot more to it.
“To me, balance is getting first downs and finding a way to eke out 10 yards in three plays,” said offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. “I don’t necessarily think it has to be run or pass. We have to get it done some way or another, and that’s the job. I like where we’re at in our run game from the standpoint of older Jaylen (Samuels), older James (Conner). We’ve got some young guys in there, so that’s pretty exciting.
“I think they complement each other really well. James really came on last year, and his role increased so much, giving the circumstances at the beginning of the year. He’s shown the ability to do that. When he was out Jaylen got an opportunity to be a feature back, and that meant first, second, and third down. When they’re both healthy you might be able to use both to their strengths that they bring to the table. And Jaylen is very accomplished as a possible route runner, as a possible protector, so you hope that signs of growth will be in that area of our group.”
Dropping a dime: Samuels' ability to complement Conner will be aided by him being a bit different of a back this year. Samuels said he dropped 10 pounds this offseason, going down to 220, and it’s paying dividends.
“That was my main goal this offseason,” said Samuels. “Cut it down a little bit. Get in top shape because I knew my role was going to increase a little bit more. Cutting down 10 pounds I feel way better. I get in and out of cuts better. I don’t get as fatigued as quick. I feel good now.”
Speed kills: Speed. It’s something that has become one of the top factors of the Steelers defense and it’s a quality that you need. But it’s not just about speed. There are other key aspects and those won’t come into play
“I think it is one of the fastest defenses we have had in a while,” said defensive coordinator Keith Butler. “We had some fast defenses when we were in the Super Bowls and stuff like that, but I think that this team—we will see how it is. That team back then was good because they could run, and they were smart and played together well. We will see how we play together. That is how it is going to determine how good we are.”