An ESPN report two weeks ago made the claim that running back Le’Veon Bell intends to report to the Pittsburgh Steelers in time for him to be able to participate in the team’s seventh game of the season, which will come two weeks from now following a Week Seven bye that they are now entering.
That report came during a three-game stretch for James Conner in which he totaled fewer than 100 yards on the ground and was averaging just three yards per carry. Since then, he has put together back-to-back 100-yard games on the ground with two rushing touchdowns in each of them in the Steelers’ first series of consecutive victories.
The second-year running back rushed for 111 yards on just 19 carries earlier today, his most efficient game of the season at 5.8 yards per carry. He also scored both of the Steelers’ touchdowns in the first half, and nearly scored a third in the second half, but the officials marked him down short of the goal-line.
After the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger joked that it was a shame that would be it for Conner. “I know it’s his last game for us with Le’Veon coming back”, he told reporters, making reference to the ESPN report.
Ben Roethlisberger joked re James Conner, “I know it’s his last game for us, w/ Le’Veon coming back.” Then, more seriously, he says, no, he hasn’t spoken to Bell, and no, he has no info on when he’s coming back outside media speculation. #Steelers
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) October 14, 2018
Despite that, even with Bell speaking directly to Jeremy Fowler, word from the team remains that nobody has had contact from the running back. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette Tweeted that after the game, adding that the team has no direct knowledge of when or if he intends to report.
Steelers have not heard from Le’Veon Bell that he might report this week, per team source.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) October 14, 2018
Whether or not he does show up at some point over the next 10 days or so, it is highly unlikely that we have seen anything close to the last of Conner this season, who has already demonstrated that he is a legitimate NFL running back.
Over the course of the first six starts of his career, he has now rushed for 453 yards on 103 attempts, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt. He also has seven rushing touchdowns on the season to lead the league.
It is worth noting that Bell has never rushed for more than nine touchdowns in a single season, and his career-high for total touchdowns in one year is 11. He rushed for nine last year and added two receiving touchdowns. He also once had eight rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns.
While Conner had not scored a touchdown through the air, he has converted two-point attempts twice on receptions. He also has 26 catches on the season for 257 yards, averaging very nearly 10 yards per reception.
Even if Bell does report, there is no doubt in my mind that the Steelers would use both running backs. I do not believe that the team has any sense of loyalty remaining to Bell, whom they believe has treated them with disrespect over the past two months.