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Steelers hopeful James Conner will be back to “lead dog” status this year

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Mike Florio, Peter King and Chris Simms draft the NFL players they believe will win comeback player of the year in 2020.

A rebound for the Steelers offense after last season will have a lot to do with the rebound of three players who dealt with injuries last season.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed the most time, but wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and running back James Conner were also down for chunks of the season. Conner’s injuries kept him from being the “featured-runner type guy” that head coach Mike Tomlin prefers for the offense.

While the team has other runners, Tomlin’s preference is why the hope in Pittsburgh is that Conner is able to get back on track this year.

“We’re excited about what the group is going to do largely. Usually when it’s going well, it’s because you have a lead dog out front, and that guy is the featured runner. . . . James is a featured guy and proven runner when healthy,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “We’re excited about him getting back to health and displaying that in 2020. Benny Snell is a guy that is capable of being a featured runner who plays with a physical style in a similar manner to James. He’s capable of being a James-type of guy if James is unavailable.”

The coming season is the final one on Conner’s rookie deal, so a failure to bounce back as hoped could lead to a new look in the backfield for 2021.