Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert pointed to Conner and Jaylen Samuels as part of the impetus for the decision not to place a transition tag on Le'Veon Bell, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
With the Bell saga finally coming to an end, Pittsburgh will move forward with Conner and Samuels in the backfield, hoping to regain some semblance of balance after ranking second in the NFL for pass-play rate (67.4 percent) in 2018. Conner did his part with 973 rushing yards, 497 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 13 games, though he trailed off in the second half of the season even before he missed three weeks with a knee injury. The backfield arrangement from a Week 17 win over Cincinnati might provide a glimpse into the future -- Conner had 14 carries and three catches, while Samuels had two carries and seven receptions. Conner developed into a useful pass-catcher in 2018, but Samuels provides more of a threat in obvious throwing situations.
Conner (ankle) ran for 64 yards on 14 carries and caught all three of his targets for 30 yards during Sunday's 16-13 win over Cincinnati.
After missing the past three games due to an injury, Conner returned to his role as the primary rusher for the season finale. With Le'Veon Bell in a season-long holdout, Conner stepped up and finished up the 2018 season with 215 carries for 973 yards (4.5 average) and 12 touchdowns. He also had 55 catches (on 71 targets) for 497 yards and one touchdown in 13 games. He has two years remaining on his current contract, and with Bell almost certainly playing for someone else next season, Conner is a first-round selection in 2019 redraft fantasy leagues.
Conner (ankle) is listed as active for Sunday's game against the Bengals.
Conner -- who last suited up in Week 13 -- will give it a go Sunday, but it remains to be seen if he'll log as heavy a workload as he did prior to sustaining his ankle injury. With that in mind, Jaylen Samuels, who filled in well in place of Conner over the last couple of weeks, is available to spell Conner when needed in both early-down and obvious passing situations. On the plus side, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com relays that Conner "looked pretty fluid on a few cuts" when briefly testing out his ankle with a team trainer before Sunday's contest.
Conner appears to be in line to play Sunday against the Bengals after testing out his ankle in warmups, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
We'll confirm the running back's Week 17 status, either way, upon the release of the Steelers' inactives in advance of Sunday's 4:25 ET kickoff, but at this time it looks like Conner is poised to return to action following a three-game absence.
Conner (ankle) did less in practice this week than initially perceived and is a true game-time decision, Fox's Jay Glazer reported on their pregame show Sunday morning.
The general expectation was that Conner would play, but now it appears that isn't as certain. Moreover, even if he plays, he may not be as heavily used in the offense as initially expected.
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