Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner left Thursday’s game in order to undergo a quick evaluation in the blue medical tent. He checked back into the game, but then left for good after having a discussion with Head Coach Mike Tomlin before being escorted into the locker room by the on-field independent neurologist.
In other words, he suffered a concussion, and Tomlin confirmed after the game that the running back was in the concussion protocol. The good news is that, at least for now, the Steelers are optimistic about Conner’s status as it relates to the team’s next game, against the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road in six days.
Said Ian Rapoport on the NFL Network, “while noting all concussions are different, my understanding is the Steelers are optimistic that Conner is back for the next game”, in what seemed to be a mere footnote in a story about Le’Veon Bell and the expectation that he will not show up tomorrow.
From @gmfb Weekend: More on the #Steelers and RB Le’Veon Bell’s looming decision to sit out, along with their optimism that RB James Conner (concussion protocol) won’t miss a game. pic.twitter.com/UePM5vv0IM
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 11, 2018
But give the fact that Bell isn’t expected to be with the team, that is, uh, a pretty big story, as the Steelers are not particularly stacked at the running back position behind Conner if he is unable to play in their next game.
The only two other running backs behind him are veteran Stevan Ridley, who already got the ire of Tomlin after a fumble a couple of games ago, and rookie Jaylen Samuels, who doesn’t have many touches at all in his career.
There is also Trey Edmunds on the practice squad, originally with the Saints, and the older brother of rookie safety Terrell Edmunds. Trey could potentially be called up from the practice squad if Conner were expected to miss time. Somebody like Brian Allen, who started the year on the practice squad, could be moved in order to make that happen.
We won’t hear from Tomlin until tomorrow, though, and the team won’t practice until Wednesday, so we are still a ways off from actually knowing anything concrete about where the running back stands in relation to their next game.
He will not only have to practice once, but show the ability to do so without suffering any concussion symptoms. Of course it’s not out of the ordinary for a player to not miss time after suffering a concussion, and having an extra few days is an asset in that regard as well.
His early exit broke up a string of 100-yard games for Conner, but now on the season has 771 rushing yards on 164 carries and 10 rushing touchdowns to go along with 39 receptions for another 387 yards and another touchdown. He has been indispensable to the offense, and it would be hard to imagine it running without him. But many thought the same of Bell as well.