Steelers’ James Conner Ranks High on List of ‘Most Elusive’ NFL Running Backs


Al Bello/Getty Images James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers eludes Jordan Jenkins of the New York Jets during a game in 2019.

“People love running backs who make defenders miss,” writes Pro Football Focus’ Ben Linsey, announcing part of his rationale for creating a list of the ‘most elusive’ NFL running backs. Using PFF data from past seasons, Linsey analyzed “how often each [starting] running back forced missed tackles on both rushing attempts and receptions, while also diving into other metrics, such as how effective they were after contact and how well they performed after the catch.”

Or, to put it another way, Linsey defines elusiveness as how well a running back eludes would-be tacklers, whether that means running them over or avoiding contact entirely.

By that measure, Pittsburgh Steelers starter James Conner rates highly, ranked No. 11 among the 32 NFL running backs who project to get the most touches on their team in 2020.

Linsey notes that in 2018, Conner broke 60 tackles, second only to the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley—No. 7 on the list, by the way—despite playing in just 13 games. And even during last year’s injury-plagued campaign, Conner ranked among the best in missed tackles forced per touch, “forcing 19 missed tackles as a receiver on just 34 receptions.”

“Conner may not be a breakaway threat in the open field,” concludes Linsey, “but it’s hard to get a clean shot on him.”

Former Steelers’ Starter Le’Veon Bell at No. 18

In case you’re wondering, former Steelers’ starter Le’Veon Bell—now with the New York Jets—ranks No. 18 on the list.

“In his first season with the Jets, forcing missed tackles is something he had to do with regularity behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines,” explains Linsey, noting that Bell “wasn’t outstanding in 2019, but he was still better than the yards per carry or reception numbers would suggest.”

As for the top five running backs on PFF‘s ‘most elusive’ list, those are Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns) at No. 1, followed by Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders), Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans), Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints) and Dalvin Cook (Minnesota Vikings).

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Big Ben’s Twitter Account Set to Unblock En Masse

In other news, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk tells us, “per a source with knowledge of the situation,” that @_BigBen7—that is, Ben Roethlisberger’s official Twitter account—plans to unblock all of the “incredibly large number of other accounts” it has blocked.

While it’s well known that Roethlisberger doesn’t operate his own Twitter account, perhaps he came to the realization that the, uh, blocking scheme, wasn’t doing him any favors in cyberspace. Hence the fresh start.

In 2017, by which time he was already known as a notorious Twitter blocker, Roethlisberger told Scott Van Pelt that he wasn’t involved in operating his own social media accounts.

“I don’t do Twitter, that’s the funny thing,” he said. “I do not do my Twitter. I do not do Insta—whatever all that stuff is now. It’s not me.”

READ NEXT: Steelers’ James Conner Gifts His Dad a New Truck [WATCH]

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