The Pittsburgh Steelers are still waiting for the return of Le’Veon Bell. The star running back has yet to return to the Steelers and it doesn’t look like anyone has any clear idea on when that will happen. If the Steelers do not trade Bell, at some point he will have to return to the team. When this happens, what will the backfield look like?
Right now, James Conner is in the best form of the season. He’s now rolled off back-to-back 100-yard rushing games and has caught eight passes for another 93 yards in those games. He’s also provided four touchdowns to help the Steelers win both crucial games.
When Bell returns, it will be tough to take touches away from a player like Conner who has shown his elite skills this season. He’s on pace to be a Pro Bowl selection and could very well lead the conference in rushing touchdowns.
Bell, a two-time All-Pro player, has a history of dominance in the backfield. Last year, for example, Bell had 321 rush attempts and 85 receptions. Conner, the number two running back on the roster, had a total of 32 rush attempts and one target for the entire season!
That difference in volume between the two running backs will certainly not be the same this season, when Bell returns. In fact, that could be a great thing for both the team and Bell.
Bell has stated, on multiple occasions, that he wants to have less touches so that he can extend his career. In the case of the 2018 season for the Steelers, this is perfect. Like the Atlanta Falcons have done for years now, with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, the Steelers can sub in each running back whenever the other gets tired or worn out. In this scenario, the opposition would be consistently facing a fresh Bell or Conner, which is scary to think about.
In the end, Bell staying in Pittsburgh is less of a problem than many people are making it out to be. With Ben Roethlisberger only having a few years left, the team wants to win now. The best way to do that is to maximize the overall talent on the team. When Bell returns, expect the Steelers to play both of their star running backs, not one or the other.