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Report: James Conner to have surgery on MCL, weighing the Steelers options at RB

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost another player to injury Sunday, and the team will have to make some tough decisions with their roster.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

After the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the New England Patriots in Week 15, the team had several key injuries. The most notable injury was the calf injury to Antonio Brown, but what didn’t make headlines was the knee injury to rookie running back James Conner.

Conner, who has been very good running the football when given the opportunity, suffered a sprained MCL ligament in his knee, per Mike Tomlin in his post-game press conference.

Reports are now stating Conner will need surgery to repair the ligament, and his short-term future is in question.

With Conner going under the knife, what options do the Steelers have behind Le’Veon Bell?

  • The team could place Conner on Injured Reserve, ending his rookie season, and promote Terrell Watson from the practice squad to replace him on the depth chart.
  • Pittsburgh could keep him, hoping he can return for the playoffs, and make a roster move, likely still resulting in Watson being promoted to the active roster.
  • If Conner’s season is over, the team could also look elsewhere for help. DeAngelo Williams remains unsigned, and knows the team’s system well enough to come in and be a depth player if needed. Williams’ conditioning is unknown, but he has openly said he would still like to play in 2017 if the opportunity presented itself.

Mike Tomlin, and the team, will likely make a decision on Conner Tuesday, prior to Tomlin’s press conference at noon. With Bell and Fitzgerald Toussaint already on the active roster, the team would just need to fill the other spot on the running back depth chart, but a lot of questions remain:

  • Does the team trust Fitzgerald Toussaint and/or Terrell Watson?
  • Would DeAngelo Williams actually be able to help?
  • Will Conner’s knee heal in time for him to return for the postseason?

All questions which will have to be answered sooner rather than later, and the Steelers are fortunate they have some of the options listed above available to them.