The Cleveland Browns don’t have to face Le’Veon Bell this week when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit, but that doesn’t mean they can relax.
For weeks there’s been a discussion about whether or not running back Le’Veon Bell would show up for the Pittsburgh Steelers — and if he did, would it be in time to play in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. That’s been answered now as Bell officially will not play the upcoming game.
The initial reaction is to think the Browns caught a break — which they did. Bell is a one of a kind talent and affects the game both as a great runner, but also catching the ball.
This doesn’t mean they can take his replacement lightly. James Conner has limited experience with just 32 career rushes, but he’s been impressive whenever given the opportunity. This preseason he worked with the starters and showed he’s got what it takes to keep the chains moving.
Even with a rough outing against the Tennessee Titans in Week 3, Conner finished with 100 yards on 19 carries with an average of 5.3 per attempt. In that game against Tennessee, he had just 18 yards on 10 carries but still affected the game with six receptions for 52 yards.
On Sunday, with the weather potentially being very brutal, Conner could get a lot of carries. While he’s not as explosive as Bell, the 233-pound back could wear the Browns defense down, especially if they let him get rolling.
Cleveland needs to make sure they approach Conner with the same intensity and fire they would bring if Bell were there. They have a defense capable of slowing him down, just as long as they don’t fall into the trap of thinking things will be easy without Bell there.
Stats courtesy of NFL.com