As we careen toward training camp later this month, certain storylines will whirl faster around the offseason drum, like a spinning washer just before it comes to a stop.
A year after James Conner was the workhorse before getting injured, the Steelers added rookie Benny Snell and perceive a heartier role for pass-catching back Jaylen Samuels. Speaking with NFL Network for an interview that will air on NFL Total Access on Monday night, Conner suggested he's preparing for a similar workload to last season.
"I'll have a similar role. I'm healthy, first and foremost, I'm 100 percent healthy now. We'll cross that bridge when we get there," Conner said of his workload this year. "But we got talent in that room. We got Jaylen Samuels who's a tremendous receiver, a talented runner. We got Benny Snell. We know the work that he did at Kentucky. He's a hard-bodied runner, so all those guys will get touches. It'll be fun this year just seeing those other guys being successful."
The offseason discussion surrounding the backfield -- which was kickstarted by GM Kevin Colbert earlier this offseason -- could become moot if Conner remains healthy and proves to be the tackle-breaking menace he was early last season. Throughout his career as head coach, Tomlin preferred his offense use one back. With a dual-threat option like Conner, we could see Pittsburgh lean back toward a system that relies heavily on one runner, with others acting as supplements rather than committee members.
Conner noted that given that it's still early July, there has been no deep discussion on his role this offseason.
"It goes week to week. The game plan will be different each week," he said. "I know I'll be a big part of it and have a big role. As far as specifics, we don't play it like that."
"It's early. All we had was OTAs, but OTAs were going smooth, the offense was clicking," he said of his offense without the two former Pro Bowlers. "All our top guys were there. We'll see. I think we're going to be just fine. No diss to those guys. It's been awesome, though, playing for each other. "
"Not guaranteeing nothing but I think we have a great chance of going all the way," Conner said of his comment. "That's what we play for, that's why we show up every day, that's the ultimate goal, is to get a ring. I know that's a lot of people don't think that we can do it, with the pieces that we lost, and just counting us out. We don't mind it, though. We know that they're counting us out, but that's why I said we're going to shock them because I don't think they expect us to do what we're about to do this year."