The Pittsburgh Steelers‘ entire roster seems to have taken a step back this season, yet for the purpose of this article, we will focus in on running back James Conner.
Conner has averaged less than three yards rushing per attempt, has scored just one lone touchdown, all while yet to break the 100-yard barrier, not for a specific game, but for the entire season!
Can Conner bounce back in Week 4 against a struggling division rival in the Cincinnati Bengals? Or are the Steelers’ woes too catastrophic to overcome? Let’s take a look.
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James Conner Fantasy Outlook vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Over the first three weeks of the season, James Conner has averaged 10.5 points. This might be acceptable for a second flex, but not an RB1 as he was drafted to be by many owners this season. It’s certainly not acceptable for a guy who finished last season as the sixth-highest scoring running back in fantasy.
Despite his struggles, Conner will be leaned on heavily by the Steelers, if for nothing else but the fact that they don’t really have anyone else to do it. Quarterback Mason Rudolph struggled to push the ball down the field in his first career start a week ago, totaling 174 yards through the air. JuJu Smith Schuster certainly looks as though he’s better suited as a high-end WR2 rather than a WR1 in an NFL offense.
You also don’t have to worry about Conner losing touches to anyone in Pittsburgh’s backfield. Conner out-snapped fellow running back Jaylen Samuels by 22 one week ago, and out-touched him 17 to zero. Bennie Snell did get carries ahead of Samuels in Week 3, however, his three total snaps in the game are nothing to worry about for Conner owners.
The Steelers are clearly prepared to move forward with Conner as their bell-cow back, and they may finally reap the benefits of showing continued confidence in their third year running back this week vs. Cinci.
As bad as Conner has been in the run game this season, the Cincinnati Bengals have been even worse at defending it. They have allowed an absurd average of nearly 32 fantasy points a game to opposing running backs through three games, the second-most in the NFL. Starting running backs have enjoyed wonderful fantasy performances against the struggling Cincinnati defense. Cinci has allowed an average of nearly 20 fantasy points per game to starting RBs this season, along with an average of 6.2 yards per carry. It’s likely safe to say that Conner will see his low yards per carry average of 2.9 skyrocket in Week 4.
Should You Start or Sit James Conner in Week 4?
You’re likely ready to give up on Conner, I’m here to tell you to pump the breaks. Conner is a phenomenal fantasy start in Week 4 vs. the Bengals. I have Conner pegged as my ninth rated running back in my position rankings for this week, making an RB1 for Sunday’s contest.