2018 South Side Questions: Will James Conner Play Sunday?

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: Will James Conner play on Sunday?

Steelers running b ack James Conner had not practiced at all until yesterday after he suffered an ankle injury that proved to be more serious than was initially believed a couple weeks ago. His participation yesterday was in a limited capacity, and by the tone of the beat writers who were at practice, it sounds like that might even be charitable.

However, you know that Conner is going to do everything he can to get back out on the field, given where the Steelers are right now and how important tomorrow’s game is. Even if he isn’t able to see the usual workload that he would normally expect to have, I certainly would not put it past him suiting up and contributing in some way.

Even the way that the team was unable to run the ball on Sunday when he was out—though it wasn’t entirely the fault of Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley—Conner and the team probably feel even more urgency to try to get him back out on the field sooner rather than later.

Samuels’ gradual emergence as a potential third-down back in the passing game is encouraging and could help alleviate some of the workload pressure that the team has been placing on Conner, at least while he continues to work his way back to 100 percent following his ankle injury.

For what it’s worth, the Patriots expect the Steelers to try to run the ball against them because of the way New England’s defense has performed in that are over the course of the past couple of weeks. If they don’t have Conner, Pittsburgh is even less likely to oblige their opponent’s expectations.

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