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While Expressing Confidence In James Conner, Kevin Colbert Floats ‘Alternative Competition’ At RB

James Conner Run

Kevin Colbert gave something of a mixed message regarding the future of the running back position in a conference call with reporters held Tuesday afternoon. As he’s done earlier this offseason, Colbert expressed confidence in James Conner, attributing his 2019 injuries as a fluke and the hope he’ll regain his Pro Bowl form.

“What we talked about with James when those injuries were occurring is look this is an acute injury, it happened, we know you’re gonna get through it and that’s why we’re looking at this coming season,” Colbert told the media via PennLive’s Jacob Klinger. “James is a Pro Bowl player who had an injury-type situation last year.”

Conner was limited to just ten games last year, battling injury for most of the season. He was held to only 464 yards and four rushing touchdowns. A far cry from what he did the year prior, nearly touching 1000 yards with 12 scores on the ground.

Unfortunately, the recurring theme has been injury. An ankle sprain two years ago. And the nagging shoulder injury he battled in 2019. Colbert said the team must have a practical backup plan.

“[Conner’s readiness is] not gonna be a question, but again it’s our job to make sure we have options and alternatives and competition ready to go, and that’ll be what we’ll be working on.”

It’s hard to exactly parse that language. Are those options in-house, starting with Benny Snell’s successful rookie season? There’s also Jaylen Samuels and Kerrith Whyte Jr, the latter who impressed in limited action a year ago.

Art Rooney’s mandate was to fix the running game and the front office hasn’t been shy about drafting running backs, adding one in each of the last three years. This running back class is strong and could present the best value at #49. Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor and Florida State’s Cam Akers would seem to make the most sense. Tomorrow, we’ll publish our “what the Steelers look for” study at the position and see which players check all the boxes. From those who participated at the Combine, there were three who did.

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