It’s been a rough year for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Injuries have decimated the team to the point where the team will have trouble fielding enough skill players on offense this Sunday. The running back position has been hit particularly hard, as all three backs on the roster have missed significant time. What we have learned through all these injuries is that James Conner simply can not be relied upon to carry the load as a starting running back in this league. Conner has missed two games already and parts of others with various ailments. The latest injury to his shoulder is looking like it will keep him out at least the next two weeks. For a team already missing its starting quarterback, this is devastating news for the offense.
Durability may be the most important asset for any back in the NFL. It’s a position that takes as much punishment as any on the field. Compounding this problem is that Conner seems to seek contact rather than avoid it. He has a sort of violent running style that would test even the most dependable players at his position. There are players, like Le’Veon Bell for instance, who seem to be able to do just enough to avoid taking the full brunt of oncoming tacklers. This is a skill that James Conner does not have, and he is paying the price for it with all the injuries.
This situation has put the Steelers in a quite a predicament. Kevin Colbert now has to add running back to the list of needs for 2020. None of the other backs on the roster have been able to fill the void left by Conner while he’s been out. Jaylen Samuels has been so bad, his spot on the roster next season is in question. He’s been terrible both as a runner, and in pass protection as well. Unfortunately, Benny Snell has not been remotely healthy enough to get a feel if he can be the answer at that position. This undoubtedly has led the Steelers to start planning on adding another back for next season.
Kevin Colbert has taken a running back in the draft for three years running. He may have thought he had done enough to be comfortable at the position, but as it turns out that is not the case. Whether it’s through the draft, trade, or free agency this team will once again be looking to add another player to the mix at this position. There is no way they can look to next season, and expect James Conner to a healthy starter for all sixteen games.