Photo credit: Scott Taetsch
Author: Jon Kuzma
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It’s one of the oldest rules in the book “never fill a great man’s shoes” but that’s exactly what James Conner is doing right now. Nobody thought the second year running back of out Pitt could possibly step in and fill the vacancy Le’Veon Bell left behind but the numbers don’t lie Conner has been exceptional. With 706 yards and 9 touchdowns through the Steelers first eight games Conner already has as many rushing touchdowns as Bell had during the whole 2017 season. The thing that does make Bell so good is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. That’s one area where Conner must improve in if he wants have the dual threat impact that Le’Veon Bell produces. Still though the fact that the 23 year old (Conner) kept Pittsburgh afloat when they should’ve been in-a-bind is a huge testament of their young running back’s abilities. Bell won’t be with the Steelers in 2019 and this stint will help prime Conner for the full-time role. To be honest Pittsburgh should seriously consider starting Conner even if Bell does return to the team because they’ve got a good thing going right now. Mike Tomlin has to understand that Conner was there for this team when they were without one of their biggest stars. Obviously that has to mean a lot to this coaching staff and if Bell isn’t a part of the long term plan then why give him the majority of the touches? So there’s all these factors that are working in Conner’s favor and we’ll see if Pittsburgh makes the right decision or not? Most of the players in that locker room have already voiced their support for James Conner and that also indicates it would be good for morale to stick with what they’ve got. Besides the Steelers are winning (5-2-1) and if it’s not broke don’t fix it.
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It was unrealistic to think James Conner could fill Le’Veon Bell’s shoes but that’s exactly what’s he’s done. Nobody expected that to happen.