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Steelers

Steelers training camp position breakdown: Running backs

Joe Rutter
| Friday, July 6, 2018, 6:54 p.m.
Steelers running back James Conner practices during OTAs on May, 2018 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers running back James Conner practices during OTAs on May, 2018 at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

The Tribune-Review will examine each position on the Steelers roster as they prepare to report for training camp July 25 at Saint Vincent. Today's installment looks at the seven running backs:

Starter

Le'Veon Bell: If Bell plays under terms of the franchise tag, don't expect to see him until the first week of September, giving other players the chance to get first-team reps in training camp. At stake is a $14.55 million tender, which is about the same amount of money Bell is requesting yearly in a long-term contract. If a deal isn't reached by July 16, Bell won't be anywhere near Saint Vincent in July and August.

Backup

James Conner: Fully recovered from December knee surgery, Conner showed impressive speed in offseason workouts. He has a chance to take on a bigger role if Bell stays away from training camp and if he stays healthy. Conner's rookie camp was marred by nagging injuries.

Draft pick

Jaylen Samuels: The converted tight end from N.C. State was selected in the fifth round to provide the type of run/catch versatility Bell displayed when he entered the league. He could be featured in third-down and short-yardage situations.

On camp roster

Stevan Ridley: The Steelers thought enough of Ridley's trial run in December after Conner's injury that they brought him back for another season. He had 108 yards rushing in two games with the Steelers.

Fitzgerald Toussaint: Promoted from the practice squad in the second half last season, Toussaint contributed mostly on special teams down the stretch. He has spent parts of three years with the Steelers. The addition of Samuels will make it difficult for Toussaint to get a fourth year.

James Summers: A former quarterback at East Carolina, Summers transitioned to the backfield as a senior and led the team in rushing. He spent last season on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

Jarvion Franklin: An undrafted free agent, Franklin is a prototypical big back, tipping the scales at 239 pounds. He was the career rushing leader at Western Michigan (4,867 yards), where he was a teammate of current Steelers Chuks Okorafor (rookie OL) and Keion Adams (second-year LB).

Camp question

Who will benefit from Bell's potential absence?

Conner has a chance to take on a bigger role, and Samuels will get four preseason games to display his potential. The others will be competing for, at most, one roster spot. Ridley has the most experience, but he could meet the same fate as Knile Davis last summer when he failed to win a job on the final 53.

Next: Fullbacks

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jrutter@tribweb.com or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.

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