Today is the first day in preparing for Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns during which the Pittsburgh Steelers will actually be on the field for practice. The team expects James Conner, having missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, to be out there and participate at full capacity.
Considering the anemic performances of the run game over the course of the past two weeks, this could be a vital addition, and one can only hope that the return of Benny Snell is not too far off, as well, because defenses are not even paying much respect to the threat of the Steelers’ run game at the moment.
“We’re winning games without the running game”, Conner told Gerry Dulac yesterday. “That doesn’t mean we don’t need it. We definitely do. Hopefully I can contribute to it when I get back”.
The Steelers gained just 42 yards on the ground against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, and it took them 27 attempts to get that. They averaged just 1.6 yards per carry, with a long run of just eight yards.
Jaylen Samuels was the team’s leading rusher, toting the ball 14 times, but managing just 29 yards for his efforts, the only one on the team—and just barely—to average more than two yards per carry. Rookie Tony Brooks-James had the second-highest number of carries, and finished the game with 11 rushing yards on six attempts, with eight coming on one carry. Trey Edmunds gained one net yard on four attempts.
The Steelers had just four successful rushes throughout the entire night, their worst performance on the ground of the entire season. Only so much of that can be excused by the absence of Conner and Snell, but having their Pro Bowl rusher back can only help the situation.
Conner has already gotten injured three or four times this season, but was always able to return prior to this shoulder injury, which came during his best game of the year up to that point by far. Many have drawn attention to the way that the runs the ball as a contributing factor to his frequent injuries.
“My running style got me this far, so I’m going to continue to do it”, Dulac quotes him as saying. “I’m not going to change my game completely”.
As he gets deeper into his career, however, one must wonder if the change will be forced upon him—not from a coaching staff, but from his own body. One thing I certainly wish he would have learned was the ability to absorb blows better, and avoid the bigger ones, from Le’Veon Bell. A Steelers offense without Ben Roethlisberger needs Conner to be available if it has any ambitions of going anywhere this season.