Steelers Beat Falcons 17-13, Rookie RB James Conner Shines in NFL Debut

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2017

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs the ball as Atlanta Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed (50) and outside linebacker Duke Riley (42) defend in the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
Fred Vuich/Associated Press

As Le'Veon Bell's preseason holdout heads into the third week of the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers got an extended glimpse at his potential replacement Sunday.

Suffice it to say Bell may want to get into camp soon.

James Conner rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries, as the Pittsburgh Steelers came from behind in the fourth quarter for a 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field.

A third-round draft pick out of Pitt, Conner carried the ball three times for 22 yards on the Steelers' go-ahead drive, including a 17-yard scamper that put them deep in Atlanta territory. Bart Houston hit Justin Hunter on a six-yard touchdown pass to put the Steelers ahead for good.

Bell, who is perhaps the NFL's best all-around back when on the field, remains away from the team in Florida while holding out of camp. He is yet to sign his franchise tag, which makes the Steelers technically unable to punish him for his absence. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported Bell is not expected back for the third week of the preseason.

Bell is in no danger of losing his job—he's an irreplaceable weapon as a runner and pass-catcher—but Conner is making a case for getting playing time in the regular season. It's possible we could see the Steelers split Bell out wide in the slot in certain packages with Conner in the backfield.

The other major news from the Steelers side was the return of Martavis Bryant to game action. Bryant, who missed all of 2016 due to a substance abuse violation, tied for a team high with 20 yards on two receptions. He also received one carry, which went for a loss of a yard.

"I'm definitely more appreciative," Bryant told reporters earlier in the week. "It has taken a lot of hard work to get back into it. I definitely won't take advantage of it anymore."

For the most part, this was a preseason battle that looked every bit the case. Matt Ryan sat after just making six pass attempts, and the Steelers once again sat Ben Roethlisberger.

Rookie Josh Dobbs struggled for his second straight outing for Pittsburgh, throwing for just 70 yards and an interception on 10-of-19 passing. Dobbs has not done himself any favors if he hopes to unseat Landry Jones as the Steelers' primary backup.

Matt Simms spent most of the afternoon under center for the Falcons, throwing for 197 yards and an interception.

Steelers safety Jordan Dangerfield hauled in two picks as the game's top defensive performer.

Related

    Trubisky Ready to Go Toe-to-Toe with the Big Dogs

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Trubisky Ready to Go Toe-to-Toe with the Big Dogs

    Tyler Dunne
    via Bleacher Report

    Darrelle Revis Retires After 11-Year NFL Career

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Darrelle Revis Retires After 11-Year NFL Career

    Rob Goldberg
    via Bleacher Report

    Steelers Playing a Dangerous Game

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Steelers Playing a Dangerous Game

    Mike Freeman
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Earl Thomas to Cowboys Is Just Hype

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Report: Earl Thomas to Cowboys Is Just Hype

    Tim Daniels
    via Bleacher Report