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RB James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers

6-1, 233Born: 5-5-1995College: PittsburghDrafted: Round 3, pick 2017

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Photo: Charles LeClaire, US Presswire

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News you need to know

General News (Thu Dec 13): did not practice on Thursday.

General News (Wed Dec 12): did not practice on Wednesday.

General News (Tue Dec 11): was not ruled out of returning in Week 15 by head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Week 15: vs New England Patriots

All RB vs NE

FBG says: Good matchup. With James Conner sidelined in Week 14, the Steelers utilized somewhat of a committee in their backfield, giving work to both Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley. Neither answered the bell, however, and this unit appears to be in limbo until Conner is cleared to return. A converted tight end/h-back, Samuels has been far more effective as a receiver than a runner, managing just 87 yards over 34 rookie carries (2.6 apiece). He's built well at 6'0" and 225 pounds but doesn't hit the hole with much explosiveness. Still, he'll likely continue to pace this attack while Conner is sidelined. Just a month from his 30th birthday, Ridley brings little to the table himself, plodding to just 2.3 yards per rush of his own. Neither back looks capable of utilizing the Steelers' powerful run blocking, at least not on Conner's level. The Patriots tend to control the flow of their games, often jumping to big leads and putting the brakes on opposing run attacks. That keeps the fantasy damage down but often hides the massive struggles this group continues to have against the run. Thus far in 2018 they sit 15th in rush yards allowed and second in touchdowns but are giving up the league's sixth-most yards per attempt. In other words, whenever opponents are able to run in this matchup, they often dominate it. Over 13 games, the Patriots have allowed 12 running backs to average 4.5 yards or more per carry when taking 6+ attempts. Last week, the Dolphins blew hole after hole in this unit, with plodders Frank Gore and Brandon Bolden combining for 152 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 14 attempts. With an inconsistent line - particularly on the edges - this is a front seven that's often pushed aside, leaving wide lanes off the end and through the tackle gaps. On the second level, Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are miscast as run-pluggers and can be run on with success. Game flow will always determine the final numbers, but in general, runners can produce solid efficiency against the Patriots.

Recent Stats and Projections

WEEKOPPoSNAPRSHYDTDTARGRECYDTDFumLPts
11 at JAX 58 9 25 0 9 6 24 0 0 4.9
12 at DEN 67 13 53 0 4 4 42 0 1 8.5
13 vs LAC 49 15 60 2 4 3 14 0 0 19.4
15 vs NE PROJ-Dodds * 0 * * 0 * * * *
15 vs NE PROJ-Tremblay * 9 * * 2 * * * *
15 vs NE PROJ-Bloom * 0 * * 0 * * * *

Weekly Performance vs RB 1, RB 12, RB 24, RB 36

Percentile ranks

James Conner's percentile rank in each category, among RB with more than 50 fantasy points.

Recent Game Summaries

2018 Week 13 vs LAC (15 / 60 / 2 rush, 4 / 3 / 14 / 0 rec)

On the National television stage, and with huge running lanes available, Conner was not able to get into a rhythm. Conner benefited from two first quarter trips to the 1-yard line where he converted two of his three goal line opportunities into touchdowns. Conner's highlight run showed his two best traits, reading his blockers and strong burst through the line of scrimmage. On Conner's final run of the night he twisted his ankle and was taken back to the locker room. The severity of his injury will at least keep him out for Week 14.

2018 Week 12 vs DEN (13 / 53 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 42 / 0 rec)

Conner was relatively unused throughout the entire first half. Five total rush attempts in the first quarter and two in the second. During periods of the second half Conner started breaking long plays both in the running and receiving game. In fact, Conner had 4 rushes for 23-yards in the third quarter. When Conner finally looked to be taking over the game, he caught a ball from Roethlisberger on a wheel route and took the ball 23-yards before having the ball punched out by a Denver Broncos defender. This lead to a Broncos touchdown and Conner did not see another touch until there was under two minutes left in the game and the ball was on the three yard line. Similar to previous Steelers losses this season, they almost completed ignored the running game. In Steelers wins/tie, the team has rushed the ball almost 30 times per game. In losses, the Steelers have rushed the ball under 15 times per game.

2018 Week 11 vs JAX (9 / 25 / 0 rush, 9 / 6 / 24 / 0 rec)

Going beyond the box score is important when reviewing Conner's performance on the week. His best run of the game came after drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty for a late hit from a Jaguars defender. The conversation almost turned very negative in this game for James Conner. As the Steelers were driving on their last possession of the game, Conner dropped an easy reception on a wheel route out of the backfield which would have likely gone for touchdown. Conner simply took his eyes off the ball and dropped it. If Roethlisberger would not have scored at the end of this possession the Steelers, and fans, would have likely been asking would Le'Veon Bell have caught that and won us the game? Fortunately for Conner, Roethlisberger finished the drive and Conner doesn't have to face those questions.

2018 Week 10 vs CAR (13 / 65 / 1 rush, 1 / 1 / 8 / 0 rec)

This game had a shootout written all over it and, unfortunately for Conner, the passing game was efficient and successful working down the field. Even in a statistically down game for Conner, things did not start slow. Conner saw his highest involvement in the second series of the game. On this series Conner picked up a first down by picking his way through the middle of his offensive line by getting small and delivering a strong run. Conner also, on the same series, made a crucial catch to keep the offense rolling after Ben Roethlisberger dropped the snap. Finishing the drive, for a touchdown, Conner displayed his power when having the ability to get up to full speed. Things were scary late in the game as Conner was knocked out with a concussion. Fortunately, Conner was able to come back into the game to only leave again and be taken to the locker room. Being able to come back into the game shows Conner will likely be cleared and shouldn't miss the Steelers' next game.

2018 Week 9 vs BAL (24 / 107 / 0 rush, 9 / 7 / 56 / 1 rec)

Good running backs have a deep tool kit and can vary their game depending on their opponent. In Week 9 against the Ravens Conner dipped into his bag of tricks for more of a žgrind it outÓ game rather than his big runs from previous weeks. Every touch by Conner there was either a big hit being delivered, or a big hit being delivered. Conner's touchdown came in the first quarter when he received a swing pass out of the backfield and he ran through a defender on his way to the endzone. Conner did have one bad run on the Steelers' final drive of the game. He was running to the left side of the field and had a clear lane to cut up field for positive yards. Instead, Conner kept running horizontally and ran straight into a defender. In the fourth quarter, Conner, as we've seen before in close games, changed his running style. He stopped trying to spin for more yards and was taking only what was given. Whether it is coaching or something in Conner, he is making a concerted effort to protect the football late in games.

2018 Week 8 vs CLE (24 / 146 / 2 rush, 6 / 5 / 66 / 0 rec)

You wouldn't be able to tell by the stat line, but Conner started Week 8 slowly. Over the first four drives for the Steelers Conner only had four touches for seven yards and a near fumble. James Conner also just missed a reception out of the backfield that was a little high, but a pass Conner has made this season regularly. On the fifth drive the Steelers were finally able to get Conner going. On the fifth drive alone, Conner had 8 touches for 38 yards. This was James Conner's most complete performance of the season. Conner was using a spin move which allowed him to break multiple tackles and gain extra yardage. Late in the game, the Steelers were using Conner in the middle of the field in the screen game. This allowed the pass-rush of Cleveland to run past the play and Conner was left alone to gain regular yards after the catch. In the fourth quarter, and the last drive for the Steelers of the game, James Conner had five touches for over 30 yards. During this drive it looked like James Conner was being pulled off the field for a breather when he was re-inserted into the game and broke off a 22-yard touchdown. James Conner has taken control of this position in Pittsburgh even if Le'Veon Bell were to return to the team.

2018 Week 6 vs CIN (19 / 111 / 2 rush, 7 / 4 / 18 / 0 rec)

It should be noted Conner's offensive line is great and they are getting used to Conner's running style. The Steelers offensive line is moving more towards a power running approach and Conner has responded well over the last two weeks. Overall, today could have either been an explosion day or Conner or he could have been an okay game. Luckily James Conner was still productive even with opportunities left on the field. Conner's best run of the day came on an outside play to the corner store where he was ruled down at the one-yard line. There will still be a lot of people clambering for Le'Veon Bell and saying Bell would be doing so much better for the Steelers. Bell does not possess the same toolkit James Conner has. Conner has more explosion and more contact fidelity than Bell. This offense would look very different if Le'Veon Bell were inserted back in the lineup.

2018 Week 5 vs ATL (21 / 110 / 2 rush, 4 / 4 / 75 / 0 rec)

FINALLY, James Conner's full tool kit was being utilized for the first time since Week 1. Conner came out on the first possession of the game for the Steelers touching the ball six out of seven times (five rushes and one reception) and totaled 72 yards and a touchdown. This was on the first possession alone. James Conner was showing patience between the tackles, an ability to get to the outside Le'Veon Bell may not even still possess, broke tackles consistently (12 broken tackles), and the ability to not only absorb contact to stay on his feet but also deliver blows to defenders. From the late third quarter on James Conner was getting easier runs due to his punishing style wearing down the Falcons in the first half. Like Week 1 late in the second half James Conner fumbled the ball at a crucial point in the game. Fortunately, this time Conner did not lose the fumble and the ball went out of bounds.

2018 Week 4 vs BAL (9 / 19 / 0 rush, 7 / 3 / 25 / 0 rec)

Conner was stacked up at the line repeatedly by the Ravens and the game script never allowed the Steelers to be patient with the running game. His value is solely based on his receptions right now, and that should be temporary with LeVeon Bell reportedly coming back soon.

2018 Week 3 vs TB (15 / 61 / 0 rush, 6 / 5 / 34 / 0 rec)

The running lanes were there. The offensive line was getting good push and each time Conner touched the ball he was showing the ability to get to his spot quickly and turn upfield. With two minutes left in the second quarter Conner had an 18-yard reception keeping the Steelers scoring drive alive. In a close game in the fourth quarter and down three the Steelers trusted Conner to be their closer in the waning minutes. Conner had runs of 27 and 9 yards in the fourth quarter and totaled 48 yards rushing in the second half.

2018 Week 2 vs KC (8 / 17 / 1 rush, 5 / 5 / 48 / 0 rec)

The "Le'Veon Bell treatment" should now be known as the "Steelers Running Back Treatment". The name on the back of the jersey doesn't matter. If they are in the backfield they will see plenty of usage in the rushing and receiving game (even Ryan Switzer). Conner's best run of the day came after two evaded tackles on a 22-yard gain. He also had an Odell Beckham Jr. like fingertip coming down out of bounds but did draw a defensive pass interference. Most importantly, Conner seemed to have regained his for from the first three quarters of Week 1 as he finished strong and ran over two defenders to score a touchdown to start off the second half for the Steelers. After Conner's rushing touchdown in the third quarter he left the game for a full series and was replaced by Stevan Ridley. Conner was able to return to the game in the fourth quarter.

2018 Week 1 vs CLE (31 / 135 / 2 rush, 6 / 5 / 57 / 0 rec)

Conner drew the first start of his career and did not disappoint. To start the game Conner was used just like Le'Veon Bell would be. Conner was physical between the tackles and was consistently breaking off long gains. Conner's receiving ability was the most impressive, and improved, part of Conner's game. His versatility allowed the Steelers to move him around the formation from running back to split out wide receiver. Having the ability to stay versatile early allowed the Steelers to show different looks in the first half. The biggest blemish on Conner's resume from Week 1 was his fourth-quarter fumble allowing the Browns to get back in the game. With 36 total touches (31 carries and 5 receptions on 6 targets) in one game, the Steelers clearly trust James Conner to be their workhorse while Bell is out.

More

Latest News

Steelers | Practice not a must for James Conner (Thu Dec 13, 09:03 PM) - Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) does not need to practice in order to play against the New England Patriots in Week 15, according to offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.

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Steelers | James Conner sits again (Thu Dec 13, 06:17 PM) - Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 13.

Our View: Conner is not on track to play. Mike Tomlin hinted that Conner might be available in Week 15 but we'll have to see him practice on Friday before feeling confident about that. Jaylen Samuels should be the lead back for the Steelers in Week 15.
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Steelers | James Conner doesn't practice Wednesday (Wed Dec 12, 07:03 PM) - Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Dec. 12.

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Steelers | James Conner not ruled out (Tue Dec 11, 12:23 PM) - Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (ankle) was not ruled out of returning in Week 15 by head coach Mike Tomlin on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

Our View: Don't get too excited but there is a small possibility we see Conner's return to the field. We'll know more on Friday. We expect Conner may need more time to heal and the Steelers would go with Jaylen Samuels as their lead back if that's the case.
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Steelers | Week 14 Pittsburgh Steelers inactives (Sun Dec 9, 03:03 PM) - The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared RB James Conner, DE Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, DE L.T. Walton, OT Marcus Gilbert, FS Marcus D. Allen, QB Mason Rudolph and OT Zach Banner inactive for Week 14.

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Schedule

15vs New England Patriots
16@ New Orleans Saints
17vs Cincinnati Bengals