James Conner Fantasy: Start or Sit Steelers RB in Week 3?

Getty Steelers RB James Conner

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner entered 2019 as a player primed to reach star status in the NFL. That is, if he wasn’t there already.

Conner finished 2018 as fantasy football’s sixth-highest scoring running back in PPR formats. Conner’s 280 points were more than those of fantasy standouts such as David Johnson and Melvin Gordon.

Surely without Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown donning the black and yellow anymore, Conner’s usage and fantasy value would rise, right? Well, that’s been anything but the case.

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James Conner Fantasy Outlook vs. San Francisco 49ers

James Conner has averaged a putrid 2.6 yards per carry on just 21 carries over two games this season. To make matters worse Conner left Week 2’s loss against the Seattle Seahawks with a knee injury. However, Conner returned to practice on Friday and was left off the team’s final injury report. Conner seems to be trending towards playing in Week 3 for the Steelers. This is good news for a Pittsburgh team that lost their Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season a week ago.

The Steelers will likely ride their pro bowl running back on Sunday, that is as long as Conner’s knee is up to the challenge.

Now the obvious reason why Pittsburgh would feed Conner on Sunday is to take pressure off of second-year QB Mason Rudolph making his first career NFL start. The other reason, arguably the more important reason, is that when the Steelers hand the ball to James Conner, the Steelers win football games, evident by this tweet below.

San Francisco’s defense has been extremely stringent against the run this season. In fact, the ‘9ers have surrendered the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2019. A far cry from the 23+ ppg the allowed in 2018. However, if you dig a bit deeper you realize that the defense is probably not as good as the points may indicate. San Francisco has yet to be truly tested in the run game. In Week 1 they faced off with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who were coming off a season where they finished as the 29th best rushing offense in football. San Francisco followed that game up with a meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals and a hobbled Joe Mixon who only carried the ball 11 times.

Should You Start or Sit James Conner in Week 3?

Pittsburgh has no choice but to lean on the former Pitt Panther as they slowly integrate their new signal-caller into their offense. Look for Pittsburgh to try to get Conner going in the passing game on Sunday. Conner had six games in 2018 where he reeled in at least five receptions. The 49ers have allowed nearly six receptions per game to opposing running backs this season.

Conner may not be the RB1 you drafted him to be just yet. However, he is a viable start in Week 3 vs. the 49ers. As long as his health checks out you should feel confident locking in Conner as a RB2.

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