The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Assuming Le’Veon Bell returns and is his usual self, how would you split snaps between him and James Conner?
When it comes to Le’Veon Bell and his future with the Pittsburgh Steelers, we are still dealing in hypothetical territory. As far as I’m aware, nobody with the team has spoken with him directly, despite an ESPN report that his intention is to return in time for the team’s Week Eight game.
So while we still deal in hypotheticals, I offer you the opportunity to be the hypothetical head coach—or offensive coordinator, or running backs coach. You have Bell on your roster, and you have James Conner, who is averaging over four yards a carry with a touchdown per game and about 45-50 receiving yards per game to boot. He has shown good hands and blitz recognition and has also proven to be able to endure a full workload.
He’s basically been a fair facsimile of Bell himself, not too dissimilar than how DeAngelo Williams was when he got the chance to start. But Bell is the real McCoy—not LeSean McCoy, but the Real McCoy. He is the one you’re hoping to see emulated.
You have him. And you’re paying him the better part of a million dollars per week to have him. Let’s assume that you try to take the emotion out of the equation as much as possible before you answer these questions.
Who do you start in the first game back? Conner has done nothing to deserve a benching, but Bell has been your back for the past five years.
Will Bell be on a pitch count initially? He seemed to be last year. It took him a few games to get up and running. But…
If he shows well right out of the gate, do you keep playing him? Do you go with the hot hand?
Do you get both running backs on the field at the same time? They briefly toyed with this with Bell and Williams in 2015.