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Steelers 2020 Training Camp Recap, Day 8: Despite injury past, James Conner is the man at RB

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back on the practice field, and it is time to recap what took place at Heinz Field.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were back out in pads again Thursday, and head coach Mike Tomlin and crew were ready to get this new year started right. Throughout the day Thursday, fans had a lot of offensive talk to digest. Ben Roethlisberger spoke around noon, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner spoke prior to the team’s 1:30 p.m. ET practice.

A lot of these interviews was nothing more than status quo, but one particular part of Fichtner’s interview stood out. Throughout the offseason several fans were hoping Mike Tomlin would take a ‘Running Back By Committee’ approach to this upcoming season. After all, sustainability isn’t really James Conner’s strong suit. Nonetheless, Fichtner said what we all should have expected, “Conner is the guy.”

This per Dale Lolley of

This isn’t to suggest rookie Anthony McFarland Jr., Benny Snell Jr. or Jaylen Samuels won’t have a role on the team, but that role will likely depend on Conner’s availability.

So far, Conner has yet to prove he can get through a full NFL season since being drafted. With that said, it looks as if the Steelers will be wise to find roles for the backups if/when Conner sustains another injury.

There was other news from Day 8 of training camp practice...

Let’s get to it...

Players missed

After a day off, the Steelers were back on the field, and several players returned to practice who had missed time prior:

JuJu Smith-Schuster (days off)
Kevin Dotson (knee)
Diontae Johnson (undisclosed)
Chukwuma Okorafor (groin)
Wendell Smallwood (shoulder)
Terrell Edmunds (undisclosed)
Chris Wormley (shoulder)
Vance McDonald (day off)

However, there was one player who had the day off:

Eric Ebron (illness)

Those who were previously injured and remained out of practice were:

Derwin Gray (knee)
Kerrith Whyte Jr. (groin) (day-to-day)
Alexander Myres (groin)
Ryan Switzer (foot) (day-to-day)
Kam Canaday (knee)
Derek Watt (unknown) (working back)

After practice, Mike Tomlin addressed the media and said there was one new injury during Thursday’s practice, and that was Anthony McFarland who left with a concussion and will now enter the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Another example of the more you can do

On the last Training Camp Recap, Cam Sutton was highlighted for his ability to play so many positions in the Steelers’ secondary. The same is now being said of safety Marcus Allen. Allen, who is a heavier safety, practiced with the linebackers on Thursday. For someone desperate to make the team, the more you can do the better your odds are of making the roster.

After practice, Mike Tomlin expounded on Allen’s ability to drop down into the box and play a Mark Barron-like safety position.

Defensive edge

During Ben Roethlisberger’s interview Thursday, he was asked who, when on 11-on-11 drills, was winning, the offense or defense? Roethlisberger’s answer was simple. The defense. However, they do say defense starts ahead of offense.

Experience Matters

Fichtner had some glowing remarks about Eric Ebron, and his ability to make the offense even more dynamic than it already is. He talked about his experience, intelligence and his overall unique skill set.

Best ability is your availability

Chase Claypool’s hype train is on full tilt, and many are wondering what sets him apart from other players, as it pertains to his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. As it turns out, it is just about availability. Claypool hasn’t missed a practice, workout or meeting. Your best ability sometimes is your availability.

Pitch Count

While Roethlisberger spoke glowingly about his elbow and how he is doing in his rehabilitation, the fact remains the Steelers have been putting Roethlisberger on a pseudo pitch count. While Roethlisberger is feeling great, the team is still be hesitant realizing how many throws he has accumulated over the years.

Uncertain future

Of course, media asked Roethlisberger if he has any plans of playing out side of his current contract, but Roethlisberger wasn’t biting. He is taking it one year at a time.

The docu-series developed

In case you missed the Ben Roethlisberger docu-series “Bigger than Ben” released Wednesday, the franchise quarterback spoke about how it came to be and why his agent wanted him to do it. If you missed it, click HERE.

Social justice requires action

Many were wondering if the Steelers would be cancelling practice due to the social issues swirling around our country, and Tomlin spoke about those issues, and the Steelers’ approach, after practice.

A brief summation via Missi Matthews of


A recap of the day’s happenings, in audio form:

Live Look-In at Practice

Mike Tomlin Post-Practice Conference