Second-year running back James Conner deserves a significant role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense even when Le’Veon Bell returns from his holdout, according to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field,” Roethlisberger told reporters Wednesday. “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, a two-time first-team All-Pro, is expected to return for Week 8’s game against the Cleveland Browns after holding out since he received the franchise tag in March for the second consecutive year. By not signing the $14.54 million tender, Bell loses approximately $853,000 in salary for each week he misses.
Conner, a 2017 third-round pick, has 84 carries for 342 yards (4.1 average) and five scores, along with 22 grabs for 239 yards as a receiver.
“If you look at the overall picture of what we’ve asked him to do every week, I think it’s been going up every week,” Roethlisberger said. “I think that’s what gets lost in what a running back (does) and what he’s been doing — pass blocking, picking up the blitz, catching out of the backfield. I don’t want to jinx anything, but he’s catching almost everything I’m throwing to him, and he’s in the right spot all the time quickly.”
Roethlisberger had similar comments during a radio appearance with 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, saying the team shouldn’t put Conner “on the shelf by any means” once Bell is back, and adding he would push for Conner to play.
Bell had at least 19 touches in 14 games last season, and he topped 25 touches on nine occasions. Conner has three games this season with at least 20 touches, including 25 on Sunday and 36 in Week 1.
Conner had 110 rushing yards in last Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons for his second 100-yard outing of the season.
The Steelers have a bye in Week 7, so Sunday’s game at the Cincinnati Bengals will likely be the last before Bell returns.
—Field Level Media