The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have three running backs on their 53-man roster, and that is not expected to change come Tuesday at 4 PM…or any time after that. The team evidently doesn’t expect Le’Veon Bell to walk through the doors, and are more than prepared to move on with business as usual assuming that does indeed occur.
“We’ll deal with whatever happens”, Ramon Foster said of the impending Bell deadline. Either Bell returns to the team or he doesn’t. If not, they still have the same stable of runners that has been available to them all year: James Conner, Stevan Ridley, and Jaylen Samuels.
“It’s like even when somebody is out with an injury, you have to lock in then”, Foster said in comparing Bell’s absence on the field to that of any other, although it’s actually more like a suspension than an injury, since he is not even around the team. “We’ll treat this as the same way. We’ll see what happens if the time comes”.
On a short week, and then suffering a concussion, Conner played less than he normally does on Thursday, which meant more work than ever for Ridley and Samuels, who combined to play 28 snaps to Conner’s 23.
Ridley rushed for 26 yards on eight carries, and Samuels added seven yards on five carries, but also secured his first career touchdown on a reception, one of three catches for a total of 22 yards.
Said Samuels, the two of them prepared for and expected to play more in that game, even before Conner suffered a concussion, due to the short week and the starter’s workload that he had on Sunday against the Ravens. “I started getting more comfortable as I was getting more reps in there with the ones with Big Ben in there and the game-time situations”.
But with Bell almost assuredly not coming, ought the Steelers figure Ridley and Samuels into the gameplan more regularly to reduce Conner’s workload on a game-to-game basis anyway? Foster was agreeable to that idea.
“I just think it’s important to”, he told reporters. “Conner is a workhorse right now, but he’s going to need his breaks. He’s going to be a guy who is in it for the long haul, and those guys behind him, if we have the opportunity, we’ve got to get them some reps”.
First-year offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has not been shy about public self-criticism and has reflected after a couple of games this season about his own failure not to get the other running backs more involved in the offense.
Perhaps now with the knowledge that there will be no reinforcements on the horizon, we will actually see that happen, as game circumstances allow.