2017 Offseason Questions: How Would Offense Look In 2017 With Conner Instead Of Bell?

The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.

And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: How would the Steelers’ offense look if it were forced to rely upon James Conner during his rookie season?

Although I think it should be obvious, I want to make it clear that, while not all of the daily questions that I pose are of this variety, I generally try to focus them on things to which there is no answer yet, the point being that it is a question that the Steelers will or may have to answer at some point.

Full disclosure, it gets a lot hard to do that during the offseason when you have to significantly vary the types of questions that you’re asking. So I just wanted to get that out of the way since this kind of feels like one of the few questions I’ve asked in this vein in a while.

Today, I found myself pondering the question that I posed above: if Le’Veon Bell were to go down at some point this season, potentially for a significant stretch, how will the offense function using rookie James Conner as their primary ball carrier?

Bell, of course, has already shown that Mike Tomlin is not averse to utilizing a rookie running back as his featured runner, since he did it himself, but even though he didn’t have a spectacular rookie season, I would still be extremely hesitant to draw any incidental comparisons between the two.

Conner is a player about whom we know very little at the NFL level because he missed the majority of the spring with a hamstring injury that he suffered during rookie minicamp, so that makes this all the more difficult to answer.

Ultimately, however, I don’t think a Bell injury would be something that would by necessity ground the team, and the offense in particular. I think it’s obvious that they would rely more on the passing game with their receiving talent, but their offensive line seems capable of blocking for anybody, or so the hope is, anyway. This all assumes of course that Tomlin would turn the ball over to a rookie if Bell went down.

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