If you selected Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell in the first round of your fantasy football draft, it’s not time to freak out just yet. But we’re certainly getting uncomfortably close. Bell has remained away from the team throughout the entire offseason, holding out after not receiving the massive contract extension he desired.
But on Monday, as Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review, the concern may have escalated in a big way. Bell missed Monday’s practice, the first one for the Steelers ahead of their Week 1 matchup with the Cleveland Browns. The 26-year-old has also not signed his $14.54 million franchise tag. The situation is similar to Bell’s holdout last year, although he returned on Labor Day for practice.
So, from a fantasy perspective, what does this all mean? It means it’s time to grab James Conner as a must-have fantasy football handcuff.
On the surface, it’s unknown what this means for Bell’s future, but as NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport revealed, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert released an eye-opening statement Monday.
Time to Grab James Conner
While Conner, the Steelers’ third-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has only rushed 32 times in his NFL career, he’s expected to be the next man up. In a role behind Bell last season, Conner averaged 4.5 yards per carry while totaling 144 yards on the ground.
As things currently stand, the Steelers have a few options in the backfield along with Conner, including veteran Stevan Ridley and rookie Jaylen Samuels. While the team has a fair amount of talent, it remains fully expected that Conner will be the go-to option if Bell doesn’t show up. We know the former Pittsburgh Panthers star is a strong runner, but he showcased his pass-catching abilities in the preseason, hauling in six passes for 52 yards against the Tennessee Titans.
As a pure runner, Conner looked good during the two preseason games prior to that one, totaling nine carries for 72 yards and one touchdown. If the second-year running back is able to produce both on the ground and through the air, he could prove to be one of the best handcuffs or free-agent additions fantasy this season, depending on how Bell’s situation plays out.
But for now, it’s a smart move to grab Conner while he’s still a free agent, or to select him during your upcoming fantasy drafts.