Conner is in line to serve as the Steelers' lead back Week 2 against the Chiefs after Le'Veon Bell (contract dispute) failed to report to the team Wednesday ahead of its first practice of the week, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports.
In addition to his ongoing absence from the team, Bell was officially removed from the Steelers' unofficial depth chart Tuesday, suggesting Pittsburgh is preparing to proceed without the three-time Pro Bowler until further notice. That should pave the way for Conner to see another hefty three-down workload after he was on the field for all but seven of the Steelers' 84 offensive snaps in their season-opening 21-21 tie against the Browns, with the second-year player finishing with 192 total yards and two touchdowns on 36 touches (31 carries, five receptions). The other two running backs who were active in the Week 1 contest, Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels, both logged zero offensive snaps.
The opportunity for Conner in the opener is now clear. While Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley might be sprinkled in for some plays, this is Conner's big chance and he should be on the field for much of the game while perhaps seeing close to the level of volume his unhappy teammate normally receives.
Conner has 68 offensive snaps to his name as a professional, dashing for 144 yards on 32 carries (4.5 per) in his rookie season in 2017. However, the Steelers are confident he can get the job done as long as Bell isn't at the team facility. On the other hand, Conner still has to contend with rookie Jaylen Samuels and veteran Steven Ridley, which could impact his ceiling.
That's a logical approach, given that Le'Veon Bell has yet to sign his franchise tender with the team. With Bell still absent from practice, the likelihood that Conner starts Sunday's game against the Browns continues to grow by the hour.
Even if Le'Veon Bell reports to the Steelers on Wednesday and practices right away, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests that Conner could still get the start at running back for the team in Week 1.
The plot will of course thicken if Bell re-joins the team for Wednesday's practice, but unlike last season when he reported to the team on a Monday and Conner (then a rookie) was a less-finished product, coach Mike Tomlin indicated that he's comfortable with handing Conner the ball Sunday against the Browns, with or without Bell in the mix. Look for added clarity regarding this situation Wednesday, but if Bell remains away from the team, even one for more day, then Conner's Week 1 streaming appeal will see a major uptick.
|6||10/14/18||@ CIN||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 7|
|9||11/4/18||@ BAL||1:00 pm|
|11||11/18/18||@ JAC||8:20 pm|
|12||11/25/18||@ DEN||4:25 pm|
|14||12/9/18||@ OAK||8:20 pm|
|16||12/23/18||@ NO||4:25 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|