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How to handle James Conner injury in Week 15 fantasy football

Who is most likely to lead the Pittsburgh backfield in a Week 15 match-up with the Buffalo Bills?

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner runs the ball against Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

James Conner has been dealing with a nagging shoulder injury which he suffered in Week 8 vs. the Dolphins. He returned briefly in Week 11, but exited the game due to re-injury and has not been active for a game since. This week, things look like they are finally trending in the right direction for Conner as he was able to log full practices Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. He carries a questionable tag for Sunday.

Of note, fellow Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels also carries a questionable designation, as he did not practice Wednesday secondary to a groin injury. Samuels was able to log full practices both Thursday and Friday. We break down the fantasy football implications below.

Fantasy football analysis: Steelers running back James Conner

Prior to his injury, James Conner was somewhat of a bell-cow running back for the Steelers, as he had greater than 10 carries in every game he played this season. In his absence, Jaylen Samuels initially stepped into that bell-cow role, however in recent weeks, the Steelers seem to have employed more of a running back by committee approach, favoring Benny Snell Jr. in the lead role and peppering Kerrith Whyte Jr. into the mix with Samuels. Over the past three games, the carry distribution has been as follows: Snell 53, Samuels 16, Whyte 18. Samuels and Whyte have remained involved in the passing game to an extent, but it has mostly been Snell’s backfield over this time.

If Conner is active, he is the starter in this group. There is concern, however, about another aggravation. The Steelers are expected to split his workload with Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell, per Ian Rapoport. His ceiling is considerably lower this week if he is active. If he does not play, Snell will get the start, but he too is a low ceiling given the matchup.

Start/Sit Recommendation:

Start James Conner if active, but far from a must-start

Sit Benny Snell Jr., but OK option if Conner is inactive

Sit Jaylen Samuels