Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has a lot of praise for rookie running back James Conner. Whether Tomlin intends it or not, that could put a lot of pressure on holdout running back Le’Veon Bell.
After the first day in pads, Tomlin gushed about Conner to Ike Taylor of NFL Network.
“He’s got a reputation that he doesn’t back down from physical confrontation and I wanted to give him an opportunity to confirm that on Day One,” Tomlin said regarding Conner. “And he did in a lot of ways. He’s a highly competitive guy. He showed some good technical things. Obviously, it’s Day One. He’s got a ways to go. But his mental approach and demeanor is what we desire.”
For as much as Tomlin wanted to talk about Conner, Tomlin didn’t want to talk about Bell.
“We’re not gonna waste a whole lot of time worrying about the guys that aren’t here,” Tomlin said. “I’d be doing guys like James Conner a disservice if I wasted any portions of my day on stuff like that. I’m gonna give my energies to guys like James in here working.”
In theory, Tomlin could become sufficiently impressed by Conner that the Steelers decide to save $12.1 million and rescind Bell’s franchise tender. Conner will have to show a lot more on Day Two and beyond before the Steelers would ever get to that point.