Steelers running back James Conner will miss his third straight game as he has been ruled out of Sunday’s matchup against the Saints, the team announced Friday.
The 23-year-old running back has been sidelined since he sprained his ankle against the Chargers on Dec. 2. The Steelers reportedly were optimistic he would be able to return in Week 16 after returning to practice for the first time on Dec. 14, but Conner didn’t practice at all this week.
He told reporters earlier this week he still wasn’t 100 percent and likely would need more time to recover.
“I’m trying, man. It’s day by day,” Conner said (via ESPN). “These high ankle sprains are deceiving. I can walk around fine, not limping around, but when I’m out there on the field, cutting and stuff, not ready yet. It’s a reason why we keep [three backs] on the team. We’ve seen Jaylen [Samuels] and [Stevan] Ridley. They are capable. I want to go, but if I’m not feeling like me, I wouldn’t be James Conner and go out there less than ready.”
Guard Ramon Foster said keeping Conner out until the playoffs might be best in order to keep him fresh, ESPN notes.
The 23-year-old player has had a significant impact on the Steelers’ offense in Le’Veon Bell’s absence amid his contract holdout. The second-year rusher has logged 909 rushing yards and 467 receiving yards for 13 total touchdowns. But, his injury has left a void in Pittsburgh’s backfield.
Samuels and Ridley carried a heavier workload the past two games. Samuels rushed for 142 yards on 19 carries in Week 15’s 17-10 win over the Patriots.
The Steelers (8-5-1) face the Saints (12-2) in New Orleans on Sunday with kickoff set for 4:25 p.m. ET.