The Pittsburgh Steelers have had injury concerns heading into their game with the Kansas City Chiefs all week, but a starter we are nearly 100 percent sure won’t play that has nothing to do with injuries is running back Le’Veon Bell.
Bell has run for more than 100 yards against the Chiefs in each of the last three regular-season games. In the Steelers’ most recent postseason game against the Chiefs, Bell ran 30 times for 170 yards.
So the fact the Steelers have removed him from their depth chart ahead of this week’s game is kind of a big deal.
Expected to play in Bell’s place is second-year back is James Conner, who filled in for him last week against the Browns. Conner finished with 31 rushes for 135 yards and two touchdowns, as well as five catches for 57 yards in his first career start.
So what’s the difference between Bell and Conner? The Chiefs weighed in this week:
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid
“That other runner (James Conner) is pretty good. He had that same situation that Eric Berry had and he has come back from it strong. He is a local kid from there. He has done a nice job for himself, made a nice niche. I don’t think they are caught up in all of that from the sounds of it. And he is playing well.”
Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton
“Do you want to play against Le’Veon Bell? I don't know, the thing that kind of struck me about the game the other day against Cleveland was they had 400-and-whatever yards they had with six turnovers—that’s six possessions that at some point went away. That’s a lot. Even in an overtime game, that’s a lot of possessions ... They didn’t really change, you know? They just did what they do and did it really well. Obviously, Conner, I think is a really good back. Is he Le’Veon Bell? I don’t know. Le’Veon Bell is unique probably to everyone in our league—his style alone, not to mention his talent. I mean Le’Veon’s a great receiver, a great running back, so it’s a challenge. We played him a couple years ago when he was just walking in the door, I believe, after a three-game suspension. He had no practice, no nothing and it didn’t seem to bother him to me. Not there. We’ll just have to wait and see. We don’t think it changes anything—what they’re doing schematically. They’re not shifting these carries to here or these throws to here. I think Conner might have had 190-something yards total offense, and I think that would have been as high as anything Le’Veon had last year in total offense.”
Inside linebacker Reggie Ragland
“Le’Veon (Bell) has more of a patience to his game and James (Conner) he’ll come straight down and just run it for the most part. I got to do a good job in my gaps regardless because both of them can run the ball real well. I got to do a good job of seeing it and just hitting and attacking.”
Inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens
“They’re both good backs. Obviously, Bell is more an all-around type guy. Scatback, and creates a lot of matchups for linebackers out in space. James Conner kind of has the same ability, but he’s more of a downhill, physical runner. Both got their pros and cons. We’re ready for either one. We’re just preparing as if Bell’s going to be there.”