Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: RB James Conner
Stock Value: Down
James Conner is a hard, physical runner. His hard, physical running style has been a contributing factor in his frequently sustaining injuries, albeit typically minor, throughout his career. While he performs best when he runs the way he knows how naturally, it’s certainly adding to the beatings that he takes.
The ankle injury that he suffered last season and cost him three games late in the year was more of a freak injury. In the case of the shoulder injury that he is currently dealing with, however, there is a clearer case to be made that running style played a role in how and why it happened.
The shoulder injury already cost him last week’s game. While he returned to practice earlier this week on a limited basis, he went backwards and ended up as a non-participant by the end of the week, yesterday being officially ruled out for tomorrow’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
And for all we know, at this rate, he could still miss more time beyond this. Making matters worse is the fact that Benny Snell is currently sidelined from a knee injury that required a cleanup procedure. Meanwhile, Trey Edmunds is nursing a rib injury, even though he will play, and Jaylen Samuels is just a game removed from returning from a knee injury similar to Snell’s.
The injuries at the running back position have become so extensive that it’s gotten to the point where they have had to roster five halfbacks on the 53-man roster, in addition to Roosevelt Nix, the fullback—who has also been dealing with injuries and will miss Sunday’s game as well.
None of this would even matter all that much if only Conner were able to stay on the field. He is the sort of workhorse back who can play 65 snaps per game if necessary, where you could complement him with some four-receiver sets to give him a breather, and not even use another halfback in the game.
Yet he’s not available to them, and so they have to work with patchwork alternatives. Through his first three years, one has to give legitimate consideration at this point as to his durability issues, and the fact that his running style is a contributing factor in that discussion.