5 running backs who could replace James Conner for the Steelers in 2021

Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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The Steelers are going to be looking for a new running back in 2021. Here are five players who could replace James Conner in Pittsburgh.

If the Steelers have an offensive week spot right now, it’s their lack of a running game. They have about five games with less than 50 rushing yards.

In Steelers history, they have not had a rushing performance like that ever.  Going into 2021, it’s obvious there will have to be drastic changes to their running back squad. As likable as James Conner is as a player, and his story of returning from Hodgkins, he is not getting the job done. Add to that the number of injuries since assuming rushing duties. In 2018 he missed three games near the end of the season. In 2019 he missed an additional six games due to injury.

Then in 2020 against Buffalo, he has incurred his third injury this season. He got injured against the Giants and then missed week four. Plus he missed Weeks 12 and 13 to COVID.   While he has more rushing yards this season than he did in 2019, Conner will probably fall short of the 973 rushing yards he had in 2018. Conner is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2020 season. The Steelers would, it seems, be justified in not resigning Conner.

Conner’s Back up Benny Snell has done even worse. In week one, he racked up 113 rushing yards against the Giants. In the 13 games since, he has only rushed for 161 yards. That comes to 12.38 yards a game since week two. Considering in 2019, he had 426 total rushing yards. He is poised only to get 346 yards unless the Steelers can find some way to run the ball against the Bengals, Colts, or Browns.

Interestingly enough, rookie Anthony McFarland has only played in nine games and rushed 27 times. Yet he is averaging 10.1 yards a game.  As a receiver, McFarland has 9 yards per reception and 5.0 receiving yards a game in that same time frame. Snell is only averaging 5.4 yards per reception and 2.9 yards per game.  The Steelers should try starting McFarland against the Bengals; he certainly couldn’t do any worse than Snell.

The Steelers certainly have many hard contract decisions coming up. Decisions about their running backs amongst the choices they make. The question then becomes, if they part ways with Conner, how do they replace him. Snell has proven he is no replacement. McFarland could possibly replace Conner, but they need to run him more. The Steelers then have free agency or the draft. Using free agency or the draft here are five potential replacements for Conner.