Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tag, and now that the trade deadline has passed, he’s stuck with the Steelers if he wants to play in 2018. The Steelers, however, may not be missing Bell as much as people thought they would, with Bell’s replacement James Conner being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October on Thursday.
Over the past three weeks, Conner has rushed for 367 yards and six touchdowns, while receiving for another 159 yards. Through seven games, he’s rushed for 599 yards and and nine touchdowns, and he’s caught 31 passes for 323 yards. Through seven games last year, Bell had rushed for 684 yards and four touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 214 yards (he finished the season with nine rushing touchdowns and two receiving TDs). It’s been a breakout year for Conner, and as Bell’s holdout has dragged on the Steelers have only leaned on Conner more. He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his past three games after doing so once in his first four.
The Steelers also appear to have righted what looked like a sinking ship at the beginning of the season. They’ve won their last three games after starting the season 1-2-1, and at 4-2-1 they lead the AFC North.
It’s a good situation for Conner, as the Steelers’ elite receiving duo of Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster takes some of the pressure off the running back in the passing game. With his play, the Pittsburgh Panther product is quickly becoming beloved among Steeler fans (and fantasy owners).
Bell was reportedly going to report to the Steelers after their Week 7 bye, but that’s come and gone. It was then thought he would report Tuesday after the trade deadline, but there’s still no sign of him. At this point, however, the Steelers seem perfectly content with their running back situation. If Bell doesn’t report before Week 10, however, he might not hit free agency, as the Steelers could franchise him again for 2019. At this point, with how Conner has played, it might be in both parties’ best interest to move on.
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