If you ask Steelers RB James Conner about how the team plans to divvy touches among him, Jaylen Samuels and rookie Benny Snell this season, you might get scared off drafting him in Round 1. "I think it'll be spread out pretty evenly," Conner said Wednesday, according to Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. We would certainly bet on Pittsburgh siphoning a bit of Conner's work for the other guys in the backfield. But he drew 62.3% of Steelers carries last season, the league's 6th largest share -- despite missing 3 games. Conner's 76% share of team carries over his 13 games would have led all RBs for the season. So he can shed some work and still deliver RB1 numbers in fantasy. His targets could be more in danger, though. Conner drew 12.5% of Pittsburgh looks over his 13 games last year, which would have ranked 15th among RBs for the season. In the lone game he shared with Samuels after returning from the ankle sprain, Conner carried 14 times vs. Samuels' 2 but drew just 3 targets to Samuels' 8. Of course, more targets figure to be available overall, with Antonio Brown gone. And last year's 2nd most pass-heavy offense could lean further toward the run in 2019 -- which would boost carry volume. We'll see how things progress in the Pittsburgh backfield this summer.
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin called RB James Conner a "featured guy" and "proven runner when healthy" in a recent conference call with reporters. “I’m a featured-runner type guy by mentality,” Tomlin added. “I think that when you have a featured runner, it gives him the opportunity to drop a stake in the ground and allows others to rally around him, and it gives him a set of core base run plays that he specializes in, and you find a rhythm that way.” Tomlin has had a RB top 240 carries in 7 of his 13 seasons with the Steelers. But Conner has had trouble staying healthy; the Steelers have added Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland to the backfield over the last 3 drafts; and longtime Steelers insider Ed Bouchette expects more of a committee backfield this season. It'll be a situation to monitor closely throughout the summer. Right now, Conner carries a wide range of 2020 outcomes, making him a risk/reward pick in the 4th or 5th round of fantasy drafts.
The Athletic's Ed Bouchette expects the Steelers to go with a committee backfield this season. That'd be a change from what Pittsburgh has usually done under HC Mike Tomlin. But RB James Conner has had trouble staying healthy as lead back. And the Steelers now have depth at the position with Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell and rookie Anthony McFarland alongside Conner. "The room is crowded, but there really is not a leader of the pack," Bouchette writes. "Conner will get every chance to show he can stay healthy, and they’re likely to cut back on his carries even if he remains injury-free for two reasons: to help save him and to use some of their other backs." Conner remains the best fantasy bet here by a pretty big margin. Just don't expect him to get the RB1-level volume folks who drafted him in the 1st or 2nd round last summer thought they were getting.
Steelers RB James Conner (thigh) is out for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. That leaves RB Benny Snell as Pittsburgh’s lead ball-carrier, with RB Jaylen Samuels the best bet for targets. RBs Kerrith Whyte and Trey Edmunds also figure to mix in.
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin admitted Tuesday that RB James Conner's (quad) availability for this weekend's game against the Ravens is "very much in question." Conner has seemingly been battling injuries all season. We're not expecting him to suit up on Sunday, leaving Pittsburgh's backfield to Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels and Kerrith Whyte.
Steelers RB James Conner suffered a thigh injury in the 1st half of Sunday's game against the Jets. He's officially questionable to return. We'll update Conner's status when we learn more.
Update: Conner has been ruled out.
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