For the moment, the Pittsburgh Steelers are anticipating getting running back James Conner back for tomorrow night’s game against the Cleveland Browns. But that doesn’t mean he is going to be back at 100 percent. In fact, he knows he’s not.
Conner suffered a shoulder injury during a 145-yard rushing performance against the Miami Dolphins, which was clearly his best game of the season to date. But he left that game late with the injury, and he has had to sit out the past two weeks. As he returns, he understands that things are now about pain management.
“I’m making a lot of progress on it, and I think I’ll be good to go”, Conner said after practicing, via Brooke Taylor of ESPN. “I can’t make no guarantees, but as of right now, I’m feeling very good and things are feeling very confident for me playing on Thursday”.
Good enough to play, sure, but he’ll still feel it. Either way, they need him, and he knows it. “I just want to contribute to the run game when I get back”, he said, emphasizing that they have been playing some good defenses.
Conner did practice on Wednesday last week, on a limited basis, but was held out for the rest of the week. He told Taylor that there wasn’t anything behind that, that he simply wanted to get out there on that first day.
“I didn’t take a step back, just really was like a trial”, he said. “Seeing how it felt. That’s the main thing we preach, no steps back. I just wanted to be out there with the guys again and just being around some football, going through walkthroughs, catching a couple passes. I kind of knew where I was at, but I wanted to get back out there like a little trial”.
Whenever a player goes from full to limited participation, or any level of participation to none at all, it raises red flags, and is taken as a setback, but according to Conner, that wasn’t the case. That should instill more confidence in the fact that he has been out there this week, and that he is tracking toward playing.
How effective will he be taking contact again for the first time in weeks, on his injured shoulder? That remains to be seen. He did say that he has no plans on altering his running style, which many believe has been a contributing factor to the injuries that he has dealt with.