With Le'Veon Bell unsigned and James Conner hurt, Steelers running back depth a concern


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USA TODAY Sports

LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers suddenly have a mini-crisis at running back.

Le’Veon Bell has yet to report to training camp, and rookie third rounder James Conner is injured, forcing the team to reach down its depth chart.

Bell is working out on his own, choosing not to not sign his one-year franchise tag tender for now. Technically unsigned, he is not subject to being fined while his teammates labor at Saint Vincent College, the team’s longtime camp site. Conner suffered an injury to his left shoulder late in Sunday’s practice and was taken back to Pittsburgh for further tests. Coach Mike Tomlin had no update on his status Monday, and the Steelers have an off day Tuesday.

Conner — already a fan favorite, his jersey ranking as the top seller among all rookies after he beat Hodgkins lymphoma while playing at Pitt — is competing for the backup job behind Bell with veteran Fitzgerald Toussaint, who took the first-team reps Monday. He was impressive, with several hard-fought gains during team drills, which was a continuation of what he did Sunday.

“That drill is really slanted toward the linebackers,” Tomlin said Sunday of a one-on-one drill pitting running backs versus linebackers. “Running backs aren’t allowed to cut in that drill, so you really get an opportunity to see the mental approach of some of the backs. And some of the backs did an awesome job in that respect because of the adversity that the drill presents. Fitz Toussaint, I thought specifically, set a tone in that drill with his demeanor.”

As Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler told USA TODAY Sports on Monday: “He really turned my head with some of the plays he made.”

In the meantime, Toussaint will likely continue receiving opportunities to make plays, along with Knile Davis and Brandon Brown-Dukes.  

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Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes

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