The injury suffered by Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner in Week 8 against the Miami Dolphins created an immediate cause for concern. Conner appeared to have suffered an injury to his clavicle at the time, and he was later diagnosed with an AC joint sprain.
While the Steelers running back sat out Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts, the initial belief was that he’d also miss this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.
Conner missing the game against the Colts was a tough blow, but backups Trey Edmunds and Jaylen Samuels filled in admirably. Regardless, there does appear to be some reason for optimism heading into a key game for the Steelers who have reeled off three-straight victories.
Update: As Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette revealed, Conner is expected to miss Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams.
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James Conner Injury Status: Cautious Optimism
Although it’s too early to get overly excited about the chances Conner returns for the Steelers on Sunday, head coach Mike Tomlin fueled the chatter behind the potential of him suiting up. As Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk revealed, Tomlin said he was “optimistic” about Conner playing against the Rams.
The Steelers coach did state that Conner will be limited throughout the early stages of the week but he expects him to “perk up” as the game gets closer. Whether or not the 24-year-old running back will do enough in practice to get back on the field is the big question.
Conner’s return appears to be on the horizon, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the AC joint sprain will be close to fully healed. As Physio Works detailed in a breakdown of recovery timeline from this type of injury, it will typically start to feel better “within a few days or a week” but the full ligament can take multiple weeks to heal.
“Most patients with acromioclavicular joint injury start to feel better within a few days or a week of the injury. However, full ligament healing will take at least six weeks.”
Much of this depends on the severity of the injury, it appears, but Conner is still trending towards a return quickly. If he does play in Week 10 there’s no reason to believe that his workload will be managed at all, but an update on that should come closer to the weekend.
UPDATE: Per the team’s official website, Conner was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday while Edmunds was sidelined with a rib injury.
Fantasy Football Impact of James Conner Injury
Rookie running back Benny Snell showed flashes of upside prior to the Steelers’ bye week in a Week 6 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers. In that win over the Chargers, Snell racked up 75 yards on 17 carries while catching his only target for 14 yards, but along with Conner, also missed the game against the Colts due to injury.
Snell underwent knee surgery and wouldn’t be in the mix as a fantasy football option to replace Conner this week. That task would once again fall on Edmunds and Samuels, although the former was limited at practice early in the week.
During the 26-24 victory over the Colts, Edmunds tallied 12 carries for 73 yards while Samuels struggled a bit on the ground with just 10 yards on eight carries. Samuels was a force through the air and the go-to target for quarterback Mason Rudolph, catching all 13 targets that came his way for 73 receiving yards.
Based on the injury status of both Conner and Edmunds, Samuels has the potential to be nearly a must-start in fantasy, but only if both players were to sit out. Samuels’ role will take a major hit if Conner plays, but he’d still be in play as a strong point-per-reception (PPR) option should the Pro-Bowl running back sit out.