The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
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 be able to return for Sunday’s game?
After missing the game this week against the Indianapolis Colts, James Conner was able to return to practice yesterday, albeit in a limited capacity. Even last week, when he didn’t practice at all, the Steelers still listed him as doubtful instead of out. Mike Tomlin said during the week that they felt comfortable with his ability to play without practicing.
So that kind of sets the table for where we are with him. He doesn’t necessarily have to have a full practice even by the end of the week in order for him to be ready to play, but obviously if he does, it will make a big difference in terms of the degree of confidence that he will. The most important thing is that he doesn’t take any steps backwards.
Outside of a 45-yard run by Trey Edmunds, the Steelers had a hard time getting things going on the ground without Conner. Jaylen Samuels gained just 10 yards on eight carries. Edmunds had only 28 yards on his other 11 rushing attempts.
It goes without saying that getting your Pro Bowl starting running back back on the field should make a difference to what you’re able to do on the ground. But we also saw the Steelers miss Conner’s reliability in pass protection, as Samuels struggled there, as he did during his rookie season.
Edmunds, meanwhile, is dealing with a rib injury, so that’s three running backs dealing with injuries. And makes it all the more important that Conner is able to return this week.