Sun. Dec 16th, 2018

Roethlisberger: Conner’s done ‘amazing things’ in place of Bell, earned role

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has earned the support of his quarterback during his time filling in for Le'Veon Bell to open the season.

"I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field," Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. "We also know what Le'Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we'll cross that bridge if and when it happens."

Conner, a sophomore, has rushed for 342 yards and five touchdowns on 84 carries over five games. He's added 239 yards as a receiver while catching 22 of 28 targets.

Meanwhile, Bell remains away from the team as he refuses to sign a franchise tag initially valued at more than $14.5 million. Bell has been fined for every game he's missed as a result of not signing the tag, bringing the current value down to $10.3 million for the remainder of the 2018 season. The two-time All-Pro reportedly plans to return to the Steelers during their Week 7 bye.

Roethlisberger was sure not to take anything away from what Bell's potential return would mean for a Steelers team with Super Bowl aspirations, but he believes Conner has done enough to retain some work in the Steelers' offense.

"If you look at the overall picture of what we've asked him to do every week, I think it's been going up every week," Roethlisberger said. "I think that's what gets lost in what a running back (does) and what he's been doing - pass blocking, picking up the blitz, catching out of the backfield. I don't want to jinx anything, but he's catching almost everything I'm throwing to him, and he's in the right spot all the time quickly."

Conner had a season-high 75 receiving yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, hauling in all four of Roethlisberger's intended passes. His 21 carries were his most since the Week 1 tie against the Cleveland Browns.

Roethlisberger ranks second on the team with 12 carries this season.

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