Steelers running backs have been gold for Fantasy managers in the past, but James Conner is far from a sure thing. Last year's unavailability (six games missed) and inconsistency (seven games with under 15 PPR points/12 non-PPR points) cost him some standing in Fantasy. Conner has never played 16 games and hasn't quite been as good since suffering a leg injury late in 2018. Naturally, there's upside for Conner to be the best running back in The Burgh, but it will mean rushing and receiving efficiently and staying healthy while fending off competition. The coaches seem willing to give him another shot as the lead back, and that optimism will help push his Fantasy stock into late Round 3/early Round 4.
Conner intends to play this upcoming season, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports. With fellow cancer survivor Marcus Cannon opting out of the 2020 season for New England, there'd been some speculation about Conner doing the same in Pittsburgh. The fourth-year pro intends to play out the final year of his rookie contract however, potentially looking at a big payday next spring if he can pull off a repeat of his 2018 breakout. After missing six full games and the majority of two others last season, Conner took some time to let his body rest and then focused on a healthier lifestyle that he hopes will help him stay on the field. Pelissero reports the running back is in "phenomenal" shape as the Steelers prepare for the start of training camp.
Conner has been working out five or six days per week throughout the offseason, Brooke Pryor of ESPN.com reports. Conner took some time to let his body heal after an injury-plagued 2019 campaign, but it doesn't sound like any of the issues have impacted his offseason routine. He says the pandemic has been conducive to a healthy lifestyle, forcing him to eat meals at home and leaving him with plenty of time to work out. The 25-year-old enters the final season of his rookie contract as the presumed leader of the Pittsburgh backfield, though he could face some snap competition from Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell and rookie fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland. The Steelers appear to have made it an annual habit to draft a running back in the middle rounds, which partially explains why there haven't been any rumors about Conner signing a contract extension.
Conner (quadriceps) projects as the leader of a committee backfield in Pittsburgh, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic reports. Unable to build on his 2018 breakout, Conner missed six full games plus the majority of two others in 2019, and he also noticed a significant dip in yards per carry (4.0) and a smaller dip in yards per target (6.6). Both numbers were better than what the Steelers got from Benny Snell (3.9 YPC, three catches) and Jaylen Samuels (2.7 YPC, 5.4 YPT), but now there's another body -- fourth-round pick Anthony McFarland -- entering the backfield mix after the team devoted a middle-round selection to the position for the fourth consecutive year. Conner has plenty of time to recover from last year's assortment of injuries and still figures to take the first snap at training camp, but he'll likely have to play out the final season of his rookie contract without an extension.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert still views Conner (quadriceps) as a starting running back, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "We hope James can regain it," Colbert said. "And, if he's healthy, there's no reason he shouldn't. We don't want to say we don't have a starting running back because we feel we do." Colbert said Conner was a disappointment in 2019 but also acknowledged that the running back was one of the top players at his position the year prior. There were still some flashes of good form last season, namely a four-week stretch from late September to late October in which Conner produced 449 total yards and five touchdowns. His season-end mark of 4.0 yards per carry fell a half-yard shy of his 2019 number, but it was still better than what Benny Snell (3.9 YPC) and Jaylen Samuels (2.7 YPC) managed in the same broken offense. Conner is entering the final season of his rookie contract in 2020, while Snell and Samuels both are signed beyond the upcoming season. There hasn't been any substantiative update on the quad injury that prevented Conner from playing Week 17.
Pittsburgh has ruled Conner (quadriceps) out for Sunday's game against the Ravens, Missi Matthews of the Steelers' official site reports. With Pittsburgh needing some help in Week 17 to punch its ticket to the postseason, Conner's 2019 campaign may well be over after he experienced another setback on the health front coming out of last Sunday's loss to the Jets. He'll be sidelined for the sixth time this season in the regular-season finale, likely leaving Benny Snell, Kerrith Whyte and Jaylen Samuels to take on most of the snaps and touches out of the backfield. Conner concludes the regular season with 715 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns across 10 games.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|1||09/14||@New York Giants||17||17.75|
|13||12/06||Washington Football Team||30||22.75|
|3 Year Avg||121||527||5||30||249||1||112|