The Steelers remain without Le'Veon Bell for the time being, which leaves plenty of work for the team’s other running backs to do in practice and in the team’s preseason games.
On Sunday against the Falcons, rookie James Conner got almost all of that work. Coach Mike Tomlin said that the team had seen a lot of their other backs to explain why Conner, who didn’t play in the preseason opener due to a shoulder injury, got 20 of the 22 carries by backs in the game and the third-round pick was productive on the ground.
He had 98 rushing yards, but his work in the passing game offered a reminder of what the Steelers miss without Bell. Conner was targeted four times, but wound up with one catch and a couple of drops that stuck in his mind after the game.
“It was nice to finish running the ball hard and that helps me be at ease a little bit more, but still that’s unacceptable for those passes I was dropping,” Conner said, via PennLive.com. “Well I just know — I trust my hands, so those were catchable balls. All of them.”
Conner held up well to a big workload on the ground and showed ability there that can make him a useful complement to Bell once he’s back with the team. The overall package also showed how much Bell means to the Pittsburgh offense and why they likely hope the third-round pick isn’t pushed to be more than that during his rookie season.