McFadden: Conner Will Play After Bell Returns

James Conner will be the Steelers' feature back even after Le'Veon Bell returns, Bryant McFadden says

Taz and the Moose
November 01, 2018 - 10:50 am

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It’s not surprising that James Conner has proved to be a capable fill-in for Le’Veon Bell. It is surprising, however, just how good he’s been.

“I’m not surprised that he’s been productive,” CBS Sports NFL analyst Bryant McFadden said on Taz & The Moose. “He was a productive running back coming out of Pitt. He was a dynamic playmaker for that university. But I’m surprised at how impactful he’s been. I knew he would be productive; I didn’t think he would be this impactful. I think he’s been gaining confidence with every start.”

Conner has rushed 127 times for 599 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns this season. He’s also caught 31 balls for 323 yards.

“That offensive line has really been the unsung hero for that team,” McFadden said. “They’re going to control the game. They’re going to make James Conner look like a Pro Bowler. No one is really talking about the job that offensive line has done, paving the way for a guy that’s a fill-in for an unbelievable running back in Le’Veon Bell. Because of that offensive line, they have not missed Le’Veon Bell for the most part since he’s been out of the lineup.”

While Bell has not yet reported to Steelers, McFadden expects that to change – and sooner rather than later. 

“I don’t see Bell missing the entire year,” he said. “I don’t see that happening. He’s forfeited a lot of money – more money than I would give away, but to each his own. He’s doing something that he believes is best for him. You tip your hat to him, but eventually he will come back. He will be extremely fresh. The biggest concern for me is how will they use Conner and Bell? Just because Bell comes back, you cannot just sit Conner. You have to find a way to use him because let’s keep it real: this is your running back for 2019. James Conner will be your running back for 2019. You need to allow him to get as comfortable as possible knowing he will be your feature guy after 2018.”

McFadden believes Bell will need at least two weeks before he’s game ready, but he could be a difference-maker in the playoffs.

“By January, he should be ready to go,” McFadden said. “But you cannot just say, ‘Hey, Bell is back. It’s the Lev-Bell show.’ No. James Conner has earned the right to continue to be in that lineup when Bell returns.”