USATSI

Running backs seem to come a dime a dozen nowadays in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have several intriguing options on their depth chart. Jaylen Samuels has contributed on the ground and through the air when called upon, the Steelers drafted a tantalizing weapon in Anthony McFarland in this past draft and then there is also Benny Snell, who also appears to be an up-and-coming back. While these younger players have all shown in training camp that they are worth a couple of touches on Sundays, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told reporters recently that it is still James Conner who is their lead back. 

“There is no question about who our bell cow is,” Tomlin said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Our bell cow is James Conner, and he is our primary ball-toter.”

While Conner broke out in a big way thanks to Le’Veon Bell’s holdout in 2018, he appeared to take a step back in 2019. In 10 games, he rushed for just 464 yards and four touchdowns while averaging a career-low 4.0 yards per carry. Conner battled multiple injuries as the Steelers overall suffered through a tough season, and the former third-round pick is now entering a contract year. Still, despite the uncertainty of the future, Pittsburgh’s coaches believe Conner is one of the best backs in the league.

“You have a Pro Bowl-type of running back as a starter that, when healthy, is as good as any in the league,” said running backs coach Eddie Faulkner. “You have a bunch of guys that skill sets fit what we look for, whether that is Jaylen Samuels and his versatility. Whether that is Anthony McFarland and his change of direction and burst. And, obviously, Benny Snell came in and did some good things for us his first year and [has] only gotten better. I just look around the room and see a lot of talented guys who can help us.”

Tomlin has always been one to ride a single back until injury or contract holdout disrupts the game plan, but there is no denying that Conner has plenty of talent behind him on the depth chart. 

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