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: Up
Adam Schefter reported last night that third-year starting running back James Conner is expected to suit up tonight for the Steelers, for the first time in three games. He has been out during that time with a shoulder injury. But that was a reinjury of one that he sustained in Week Eight. He has played just one quarter of football since then.
Despite being a full participant in practice all week, the Steelers still listed Conner with an injury designation, albeit ‘questionable’, the highest that it goes anymore. That they listed him as questionable obviously is an indication that he isn’t fully healthy.
If he does play, that has to mean that they are comfortable with where he is in his progress with the injury where they are not concerned with the risk of reinjuring it a second time to the point where it would require surgery before he can play again.
While the running game has been pretty effective in the past three games, at least relatively speaking, getting Conner back would be a boost to their efforts by adding another capable and talented option into the mix.
I don’t think that the team would be asking him to shoulder the load right now, and that was the sentiment expressed by Mike Tomlin earlier this week during his pre-game press conference. He said that he would ponder Conner’s workload once he’s available to them.
Now that he’s reportedly going to be available, he will get his work, but how much, how soon? It’s hard to see them asking him to carry the ball 20 times in the game, especially not with Benny Snell doing reasonably well in his absence, and Kerrith Whyte making headway.
Jaylen Samuels has been a bit hit or miss, especially in terms of per-play efficiency, but he has been effective as well, and has made strides in pass protection. If Conner can get any sort of work, be reasonably effective, and stay healthy, then that would be a big win for himself and the team heading into the final turn of the regular season.