Steelers Rumors

Roethlisberger Injury Not Serious

  • Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the second half in the Steelers‘ loss to the Raiders with a rib injury, but is expected to be fine and play next week against the Patriots, Schefter writes in a separate tweet. Joshua Dobbs filled in for Roethlisberger today, and Big Ben’s absence ended up costing the team the game as they scored zero points with Dobbs under center. The Steelers are just 7-6-1 and in danger of falling out of the playoffs with a very tough upcoming schedule, so they’ll need Roethlisberger at full strength.

James Conner To Return In Week 15?

2018 revelation James Conner had his magical season sidetracked when he suffered an injury — which some sources believe is a high ankle sprain — during the Steelers’ loss to the Chargers last Sunday. However, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com writes that Conner “has a chance” to be back in action for Pittsburgh’s potentially critical matchup with the Patriots next week.

The Steelers are only 1/2 game up on the Ravens in the AFC North, but Baltimore will face a stiff test against the Chiefs in Kansas City this afternoon while Pittsburgh gets a favorable matchup in Oakland. But even if the Steelers can put some distance between themselves and Baltimore today, they still need to deal with New England and New Orleans, so they would love to get Conner back for the stretch run.

Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports also hears that Conner could be back next week, though Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is a little less optimistic (video link). Rapoport says that Conner will be reevaluated tomorrow and that the Steelers are expected to be cautious with him. As such, Conner could miss the team’s Week 15 bout against the Pats. Speculatively, if the Steelers win today and the Ravens lose, Pittsburgh may be more inclined to hold Conner out for another week.

Jaylen Samuels, whom the Steelers selected in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, is expected to get the bulk of the touches in Conner’s absence. Luckily for Pittsburgh, Samuels, like Conner, is a talented receiver out of the backfield, so the Steelers should not have to alter their offensive approach to accommodate him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Workout Updates: 12/4/18

Here is the latest from the workout circuit. All links to NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account, unless otherwise noted.

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Kansas City Chiefs

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Oakland Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Redskins

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/4/18

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Atlanta Falcons

Arizona Cardinals

Buffalo Bills

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

Oakland Raiders

Pittsburgh Steelers

Washington Redskins

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 12/4/18

We’ll keep track of today’s practice squad moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Steelers’ James Conner To Miss Time

Steelers running back James Conner has been ruled out for this week’s game against the Raiders, coach Mike Tomlin announced. Initially, Conner was believed to have suffered a minor contusion, but it turns out that he has a slightly more serious sprain that will keep him out of action for at least one game. 

Conner, 23, has exceeded all expectations this year in place of star Le’Veon Bell. In 12 games (eleven starts), Conner has amassed 909 yards off of 201 carries (4.5 yards-per-carry average) and 12 rushing touchdowns. He’s also caught 52 passes for 467 yards and one receiving score, showing that he’s a more than adequate replacement for one of the sport’s most dynamic weapons.

Naturally, the Steelers will still go into Sunday’s game against Oakland as heavy favorites, even though they’re on the road. With a win, the Steelers can further solidify their odds of making the playoffs while taking another step closer towards the AFC North title.

With Conner on the sidelines, Stevan Ridley and Jaylen Samuels are expected to lead the way at running back. Meanwhile, the club will hope to get Conner back on the field for a huge Week 15 matchup against the Patriots.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/1/18

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tennessee Titans

Poll: Who Will Be AFC’s No. 1 Seed?

Five two- or three-loss teams comprise the AFC’s group of surefire contenders. The Chiefs, Patriots, Texans, Steelers and Chargers are almost certain to extend their seasons into January.

But which team will wind up with the No. 1 seed? That question becomes more interesting after the events in Kansas City on Friday.

Although Sammy Watkins has missed time for the Chiefs this season, they trotted out their top offensive threats in every game. The Patrick MahomesTravis KelceTyreek HillKareem Hunt quartet led Kansas City to a 9-2 record — with losses coming by a combined six points against teams with a combined 18-4 record — and a runaway DVOA lead, but the NFL’s reigning rushing champion won’t be joining his former teammates Sunday in Oakland after the Chiefs cut him. Hunt totaled 1,202 yards from scrimmage for the Chiefs this season; no other K.C. back has more than 300. But next-man-up Spencer Ware did amass 1,368 for the 2016 Chiefs.

This may open the door for the franchise that has secured the AFC’s No. 1 seed in five of this decade’s eight seasons. Only two AFC franchises have held home field in the 2010s — New England and Denver — and no other team has represented the conference in a Super Bowl in six years.

The Chiefs have not had home-field advantage since 1997 but entered the week having the inside track to make the playoffs go through western Missouri. Football Outsiders gives Kansas City a 74 percent chance to lock down the No. 1 seed.

They have two games remaining against the 2-9 Raiders and also will be home against the Chargers, who haven’t won this matchup since 2013, and Ravens. The Chiefs must travel to Seattle in Week 16, and their margin for error may be slim.

The Patriots’ AFC East rivals are again cooperating with New England’s hopes of earning a bye and possibly the 1 seed, and three of the Pats’ final five games are against the Bills, Jets and Dolphins. Football Outsiders, however, gives the Patriots merely a 13 percent chance of securing home-field advantage. But they own head-to-head tiebreakers over the Chiefs and Texans. Despite this being a less-than-dominant Patriots edition (ninth DVOA, seventh in scoring offense, 12th on defense), they have an interesting chance to obtain home field again.

New England is 19-3 in Foxborough playoff games under Bill Belichick and 3-4 away from home in January, making that position rather important.

Football Outsiders tabs Houston, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles as long shots, with none carrying better than a 6.9 percent chance (the Texans) to avoid January travel.

Houston, though, leads the contender pack with the No. 4 DVOA defense and plays just one winning team — the 6-5 Colts — the rest of the way. The Texans are riding the longest win streak in football and are the first team to win eight straight after starting 0-3. The Steelers and Chargers will encounter tougher opposition. Games against the Bolts, Patriots (both at home) and Saints still loom for the Steelers. Road trips to Kansas City and Denver are ahead for the Chargers, who also host the Ravens in Week 16.

Los Angeles is fourth in weighted DVOA and, especially with Joey Bosa back, possesses a far superior defense to the Chiefs. Will that end up mattering come Week 15 in what’s been a one-sided rivalry as of late?

So, which one of these teams will end up with the conference’s coveted postseason real estate? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Steelers WR Eli Rogers Returns To Practice

Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers — who is currently on the reserve/physically unable to perform list — returned to practice today, according to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer (Twitter link).

Rogers, 25, has certainly had an eventful 2018 to this point. After tearing his ACL in the divisional round of the playoffs, Rogers was non-tendered as a restricted free agent. He subsequently worked out for multiple teams — including the Chiefs, Browns, and Raiders — before re-signing with the Steelers in July. The NFL suspended Rogers for the first game of the season following a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy, but he was able to serve that ban while on PUP.

Rogers has been a part-time player since entering the NFL in 2016, topping out at 62% playtime during his rookie campaign before dipping to 40% last season. The Steelers already have two top-tier wideouts in Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, so Rogers will have to compete with Ryan Switzer and James Washington for snaps.

Because he’s already missed the NFL-mandated six weeks of action, Rogers can be activated at any time. If the Steelers don’t place him on their 53-man roster in the next three weeks, he’ll remain on the PUP list for the rest of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Le'Veon Bell Wants To Join Colts?

  • Le’Veon Bell‘s bitter divorce with Steelers was in the works for a long time, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com writes. A faction of the Steelers locker room wanted no distractions this year, Fowler writes, so Bell’s decision to sit out the entire season was not exactly devastating in Pittsburgh.
  • This week, Bell hinted on Instagram that he would like to join the Colts and team up with quarterback Andrew Luck (via ESPN.com’s Mike Wells). It’s not clear whether the Colts will be players for the Steelers running back, but they will be armed with a league high of $120MM+ in cap space.