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2020 South Side Questions: Will Conner And Pouncey Return Run Game To Respectability?

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 the return of James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey lead to the running game returning to respectability?

The running game has been worryingly missing in action for the better part of the past two months. The absences of running back James Conner and Maurkice Pouncey only account for the past two games, rather than the whole stretch.

However, head coach Mike Tomlin only in recent weeks acknowledged that there were issues in the running game that they were going to begin to work to address, and the first game after that, they did put up over 100 yards on the ground, with Conner, before both he and Pouncey were placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List.

So will their return also see the return to the running game making progress? Or will we see more of the same from recent weeks? Anthony McFarland did have a couple of good runs, and Benny Snell did fine at the end of the Baltimore Ravens game, so it’s not like every single play has been bad.

One could certainly argue that getting Pouncey back, who was replaced by first-year J.C. Hassenauer, making his first two starts, is a bigger boon to the running game than is Conner, but the fourth-year veteran has been consistently performing better than the other backs as well, so it’s really not that clear cut. Either way, having them back certainly can’t possibly make it worse, so at least there’s that.

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