Ben Roethlisberger will ‘push’ for Conner to get ball when Bell returns
Second-year running back James Conner has been leaned on heavily by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the unexpected absence of Le’Veon Bell, but Bell is expected to return to the team at some point in the next two weeks. Does that mean it will be back to the bench for Conner?
Not if Ben Roethlisberger has a say in the matter.
During his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan Tuesday, Roethlisberger had high praise for Bell and called him an “awesome football player,” but he said he will urge the coaching staff to keep Conner in the rotation even when Bell returns.
“What I would say is, I don’t think we put [James] on the shelf by any means. … And I will push for James to get as much run as we can because we’ve seen some great things from him in all phases of football,” Roethlisberger said, as transcribed by Sean Gentille of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball, he’s running hard and making plays and playing with a passion, so we need to keep using that.”
It’s unclear what type of role Bell will play if he is ready to go in Week 8 after the bye. The relationship between him and the team is obviously at a low point, and he has given no indication that he plans to soften his stance. You have to wonder if he would consider doing something like Earl Thomas did with the Seattle Seahawks before he got injured, which was to skip practices to preserve his health.
Conner, meanwhile, has averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry and had his best game of the season in a win over the Atlanta Falcons last weekend, rushing for 110 yards on 21 carries and scoring two touchdowns. He added another 75 yards on four receptions. You can understand why Roethlisberger wants to keep him involved.