2020 South Side Questions: Will James Conner Rush For 1000 Yards On The Season?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.

Even training camp looked much different from the norm, and a big part of that was the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. Their first football game of the year was to be the opener against the New York Giants.

As the season progresses, however, there will be a number of questions that arise on a daily basis, and we will do our best to try to raise attention to them as they come along, in an effort to both point them out and to create discussion

Questions like, how will the players who are in new positions this year going to perform? Will the rookies be able to contribute significantly? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Will James Conner rush for 1000-plus yards this season?

The Steelers have not had a 1000-yard rusher since 2017, when Le’Veon Bell rushed for 1291 yards on a league-leading 321 carries, but James Conner came tantalizingly close in 13 games the following year. He rushed for 973 yards despite missing three games toward the end of the season due to a high ankle sprain.

So far through three games this season, Conner has rushed for 224 yards, or about 75 yards per game. If you’re of the sort who is into prorating figures to try to ascertain what a rate of performance would look like over a full season, they would translate to about 1200 rushing yards.

Conner has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the past two games, this after managing just nine rushing yards on six carries in the season opener, during which at some point he suffered a mild ankle injury that the Steelers chose to be cautious about, taking him out of the game.

That proved to be the right call, as Benny Snell would rush for over 100 yards in his place and he would come back the following week looking no worse for the wear. So far he has given every indication that he has the bell cow tendencies they have been looking for out of him. The only real question is whether or not he stays healthy all year. if he does, I have no question that he will clear the 1000-yard mark, something that only Bell has managed since Rashard Mendenhall.

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