Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner suffered a sprained ankle in Monday night’s 26-16 win over the New York Giants, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Schefter added the Steelers are “optimistic for a timely return.”
Le’Veon Bell was likely gone no matter what, but Conner’s breakout 2018 season made it easier for the Steelers to let Bell leave as a free agent in the subsequent offseason. Conner ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns while catching 55 passes for 497 yards and one score.
The former Pittsburgh Panthers star struggled in 2019, with his yards per carry falling from 4.5 the year before to 4.0. His yards from scrimmage were slightly more than halved as well, dropping from 1,470 to 715.
Injuries played a role in his disappointing season. A sprained AC joint left him out for a stretch of games, and then a quad issue kept him out for the Steelers’ Week 17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which pushed them under .500 for the first time since 2013.
Aside from selecting Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. in the fourth round of the draft, Pittsburgh did little else to address the backfield heading into the 2020 campaign.
Should Conner’s sprained ankle throw his availability for Week 2 into doubt, Benny Snell Jr. would likely take over as the starter. Snell ran for 113 yards on 19 carries Monday