Adam Crowley

Adam Crowley

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Benny Snell has to start on Sunday

In his season opening press conference, Mike Tomlin called James Conner his "bell cow" running back.

Is this the same James Conner that had just 19 carries in the team's final eight games of the 2019 season?

Is this the same James Conner who had six carries before he got hurt in the season opener on Monday Night Football?

Conner isn't a "bell cow." More like...bell ow. I'm sorry.

Hopefully his ankle injury isn't that serious. Conner is an easy guy to root for. He's a good player when healthy. He's just, well, never healthy. Ever.

On Monday night, Benny Snell proved that he could handle the job. He had 19 carries for 113 yards. He was decisive in his cuts and showed a burst that he didn't have in his rookie campaign.

Steelers RB's have a history of taking a big jump from year one to year two. Le'Veon Bell had about 1,200 total yards in his rookie season. He had 2,200 in year two.

James Conner was a Pro Bowl player in his second season with the team.

Snell dropped 12 pounds of weight this offseason and was able to retain lean muscle. The quickness was apparent against the Giants.

As my colleague Tim Benz pointed out last night on Countdown To Kickoff, Snell is a reasonable facsimile of Conner. Last year, Snell wasn't quite in that class.

The Steelers simply can't game plan around James Conner only to see him not finish a game for the fifth time in 22 games. That's right, Conner has either not played or not finished 17 of his last 21 football games. He's the opposite of dependable.

As for Snell, this is a guy who toted the rock 737 times in college. He can handle the load.

Against the Broncos, the Steelers should allow Snell to build off of his week one performance. He's better than a less than 100 percent James Conner.

He can handle it. James Conner cannot. He's not a bell cow.

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