Dunlap: I'm OK If Bell Never Comes Back

Steelers run game in fine hands with Conner

Colin Dunlap
September 10, 2018 - 1:31 pm

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The fumble was bad. It was really bad. 

Game on the line --- because Ben Roethlisberger had been terrible --- with just under 8 minutes left and the Steelers up two scores, the black and gold were looking to zipper it up, jump on the Turnpike and get out of Cleveland with a win in AFC North road action to start the season. 

James Conner was handed the ball. James Conner put it on the ground. Steeler Nation, in unison, pretty much said, "uh oh." Well, maybe they said something a bit stronger, to be honest. 

One play after a recovery, the Browns scored to cut the Steelers' lead to a touchdown. In what seemed like 15 hours later, it all ended in a 21-21 tie. A tie that certainly felt like a loss for the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

The aforementioned fumble was tough. It was real tough. Here's why: It was the only blemish in an otherwise spotless day for Conner. Man, was that man super. 

He ran inside. 

He ran outside. 

He pulled in passes. 

He picked up blitzes. 

He found the end zone -- twice. 

He commiserated with his teammates.

He got pats on the helmet, he broke the huddle with confidence, he hit the hole hard and with a mission to accomplish great things.  

He looked like he belonged as a feature back in the National Football League. 

When it was all done he had 135 yards on 31 carries and pulled in five passes for 57 yards. But here's the big hammer for me in that weird game against Cleveland and the main takeaway: James Conner emphatically showed me that Le'Veon Bell can stay the hell home.

Forever. I mean it. Don't come back.  

Go make another diss track. Play video games. Go tweet a bunch of emojis at someone. Go on Instagram and tell us how oppressed you are. Take to social media and make it rain in a strip club as you throw money at some questionable "dancer." Be late for something or early to complain about something else. But do us all a favor Le'Veon Bell --- just stay away. Seriously. Don't come back. 

Never in a gazillion years did I think I would write those words about a talent like Le'Veon Bell. To be sure, when he's on his game he is one of the most dynamic Steelers this generation has seen. But, also when he's around, he is someone you are waiting for to mess up off the field and a perpetual distraction. He's become one of the most unlikable Steelers in history.  

Did anyone else catch the genuine elation the other Steelers players seemed to have yesterday when Conner scored? I know I did. Did you also happen to catch the attitude of those players both before and after the game when they relayed to the media they are sick of talking about Bell and would rather focus on Conner, a guy who is actually in the locker room? Again, I know I did.

For sure, it would be an escape from the way they operate for the Steelers to just tell Bell to stay home and that they don't need his services. On top of that, there would need to be a gameplan tinker as Conner couldn't do it all himself the way they tried to do it with him yesterday. There would have to be a slight infusion of Stevan Ridley to take a bit of the burden off Conner. Simply put, the only apprehension I would have with Conner moving forward --- because I think the fumble against the Browns was a one-time deal --- would be over use. If the Steelers made sure his number of touches didn't get burdensome, I'm very confident they can win a whole lot of football games with him as the No. 1 back. 

So confident, in fact, that I'm there. Yes, I've arrived there after watching Conner grit through the muck and the mud by the lake yesterday. Yep, I'm won over after just a single start in the NFL ... stay home Lev. Stay far, far away. The Steelers can do without you. You're just too much of a distraction in 1,000 different ways. The Steelers would be just fine advancing forward with James Conner as the man in the backfield. 


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