Ben Roethlisberger hopes James Conner will remain a big part of the offense when Le’Veon Bell reports to the team, but can the two backs co-exist?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are finally riding high after scoring an important bounce-back victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5. Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown’s Wi-Fi had a pretty decent signal, as Brown caught 6 passes for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Running back James Conner had himself a day, too, racking up 185 yards from scrimmage with two scores of his own.
Conner has been brilliant as the Steelers starting running back with Le’Veon Bell holding out. It seems like Bell could be traded this season, and if the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are interested in Bell following Jay Ajayi’s season-ending injury, then Pittsburgh may actually find a trade partner for the high-priced back.
If they don’t, Roethlisberger hopes Conner and Bell can co-exist in the Steelers backfield. According to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, Roethlisberger said, “I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field. We also know what Le’Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if and when it happens.”
Bell believes he is more valuable than every other running back in the NFL because of what he brings to the table as a pass-catcher. He’s even succeeded as a slot weapon in the Steelers offense and has shown both a strong rapport with Big Ben and game-breaking ability with the ball in his hands as a receiver.
Conner has been just as consistent through five weeks of the 2018 season. He has caught at least three passes in every contest, including a season-high 75 yards against the porous Falcons defense. The fact that Roethlisberger is publicly praising Conner and hoping for him to remain a staple in the Steelers offense is huge. It shows that Roethlisberger has confidence in his connection with Conner in the passing game. Roethlisberger even singled out Conner’s pass protection as a positive in the second-year pro’s game.
Although Bell has earned a massive payday and is one of the NFL’s true superstars at the running back position, Conner now boasts two huge rushing days on the season and has become a key part of Pittsburgh’s passing attack. He’s essentially replaced Bell in this offense, even if he isn’t necessarily as dynamic as the former Michigan State standout.
This is an interesting problem for the Steelers to have, but if Bell isn’t traded and does return, then this team will have an elite running back duo to go with its elite wide receiver duo.