It appears James Conner will enter 2018 as the Steelers' primary backup rusher to Le'Veon Bell. Conner got off to a very slow start last preseason but came around to land a 4.5 rushing average before an MCL injury ended his season early. So long as he's OK for the start of training camp and doesn't have any legit competition for the backup role, Conner will draw interest as a late-round pick, particularly from those who spend a first-round choice on Bell.
Conner (knee) has been practicing at OTAs, ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler reports. A third-round pick last year, Conner was limited to 32 carries for 144 yards while rarely seeing the field behind Le'Veon Bell, with Conner's season coming to an end Week 15 when he suffered an MCL injury. Seemingly back at full strength, Conner figures to be in the mix for first-team reps throughout OTAs and June minicamp, as Bell isn't expected to join the team until the end of the preseason unless he signs a contract extension. The second-year back is competing with Jaylen Samuels, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Stevan Ridley and a couple undrafted rookies.
Conner (knee) recently said via SoundCloud that he has resumed sprinting on a treadmill. Conner spent the final three games of the 2017 season on injured reserve due to a damaged MCL in his right knee. It isn't clear if he'll be operating under any physical limitations when offseason workouts commence in April, but he at least seems to be on track to be available in some capacity.
The Steelers placed Conner (knee) on injured reserve Tuesday, Teresa Varley of the Steelers' official site reports. Conner underwent surgery earlier in the day to repair the MCL in his right knee, spelling an end to the 22-year-old's rookie campaign. Though he didn't see many snaps behind bell cow Le'Veon Bell this season, Conner generally impressed in spot duty, logging 32 carries for 144 yards (4.5 average) across 14 games. The Steelers signed veteran Stevan Ridley to join Fitzgerald Toussaint in a depth role behind Bell. Conner is expected to be back to full strength for the start of the 2018 season.
Conner will undergo knee surgery Tuesday and will be placed on injured reserve, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network reports. Conner played a career-high nine snaps in Sunday's loss to the Patriots, but he also suffered a knee injury in the contest, a setback that will cut short his rookie season. Fellow running back Le'Veon Bell has taken 92 percent of the snaps in the Steelers' backfield this season, so the loss of Conner won't have a major effect on the offense. Fitzgerald Toussaint seems likely to take over as Pittsburgh's No. 2 back, and head coach Mike Tomlin indicated the team would add another running back to the roster in Conner's place.
Conner needs knee surgery and likely will miss at least a few weeks, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports. Conner doesn't get much playing time behind Le'Veon Bell, sitting on 32 carries for 144 yards (without any receptions) in 14 games this season. Fitzgerald Toussaint will take over as Bell's backup for the rest of the regular season and possibly into the playoffs.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/16||Kansas City Chiefs||20||17.76|
|3||09/25||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||29||19.13|
|13||12/02||Los Angeles Chargers||23||18.38|
|15||12/16||New England Patriots||17||17.47|
|16||12/23||@New Orleans Saints||12||17.22|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||32||144||0||0||0||0||14|