In the midst of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ disappointing loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, they may have also lost their Pro Bowl running back for a week.
James Conner left Sunday night’s game with a lower leg injury after a short pass late in the fourth quarter. Mike Tomlin called the injury a “lower leg contusion.” But the timeline for Conner’s return hasn’t been decided yet.
The team will return to the facilities today as they begin to prepare for the Oakland Raiders. Squaring off against a 2-10 Oakland team isn’t as intimidating as an AFC favorite like the Chargers. Heading to the west coast without a running back could be an issue, though.
Without much update, all our knowledge of James Conner comes from assumptions. After leaving the game on Sunday, expecting a return to practice this early in the week is very unlikely.
If Conner is unable to practice and therefore play, Pittsburgh isn’t going to hunt for a new running back. Instead, chances are they’ll stick to their two backfield members, Jaylen Samuels and Steven Ridley.
When Conner left on Sunday, Samuels come into the game and played well, catching a 10-yard touchdown pass to finish the late fourth-quarter drive and tie the game. On the ground he can still use some work, but as a receiving back he has potential.
The ground game will come mostly through Ridley. It’ll be his second season taking over when called upon. His reliability was a major reason he kept his roster spot, along with his impressive preseason. The Steelers won’t mind leaning on him when needed.
It’s going to be a backfield by committee if Conner isn’t able to go on Sunday. This could be a lot worse, and the Steelers could’ve been looking for a season-long runner to take them into the playoffs.
Having Conner for the postseason is a blessing. Right now, it’s just focusing on getting back in their winning ways. Not having a true starting running back should mean more passes, something that’s hurt this team in recent weeks. Nevertheless, they’ll likely be counting on two backups to fill the void in Week 14.