It does not look like we’ll be seeing Le’Veon Bell suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. Early Wednesday morning, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reported that there was still no sign of Bell at the team’s facility this week as the Steelers prepare to play the Kansas City Chiefs.
That report came after it was noticed that the Steelers had removed Bell’s name from their official depth chart on the team website.
Pittsburgh obviously feels at least somewhat comfortable using backup running back James Conner, and giving him the kind of monster-sized role Bell usually has. Conner racked up 31 carries for 135 yards and two scores against the Browns in Week 1, and also added five catches for 57 additional yards.
He obviously has talent, but he’s not likely to be as consistently explosive as Bell, nor does he inspire as much fear in opposing defenses. “Conner’s a good back, and he can do a lot of things,” Browns safety Jabrill Peppers said after the game, per ESPN.com. “But he doesn’t offer everything Le’Veon offers as far as explosive ability.”
Even Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster, fresh off criticizing Bell for not yet showing up, had similar things to say about the differences between the two backs.
“Le’Veon is one of the best players in the world,” Foster said. “Conner is a capable back. He’s had those reps in practice. The difference is, Le’Veon is flawless at it. So it’s not as if Conner can’t do it, it’s just that he hasn’t had the experience and might not be as consistently smooth.”
The Steelers will likely be without that consistency or smoothness for at least another week, and we don’t know how much longer after that. Bell wants to keep his body fresh for not just however much of this season he plays, but also his future, as he seems to know he is not long for Pittsburgh and will have to enter the free agent market to get a new contract next offseason.