James Connor or Le'Veon Bell? It May Not Matter Who Ravens Face


Le'Veon Bell is a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the NFL's elite talents. And it looks like the Ravens may not have to face him in both meetings this season.

Bell still has not reported for work as his season-long contract holdout continues. It was rumored that he could come back after the trade deadline passed – making him untradeable – but still … no Bell, which seemingly makes the chances of him playing Sunday slim at best.

So how do the Ravens feel about this?

"I hope he shows up right before the game, and they want to play him," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said Sunday.

"In this day and age, in this world, I wouldn't be surprised at anything," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs added. "He could report Saturday, show up to the hotel and now we have a whole different slew of problems."

But would the Ravens' problems really change? Bell's replacement, James Conner, was just named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October.

Since posting a paltry 19 yards against the Ravens in their first meeting, Conner has topped 100 yards in each of his three games since. Last week, he posted 212 total yards (146 on the ground) and scored two touchdowns.

Martindale said Conner is the same running back he was back in Week 4 – a "straight-ahead, dodging-type running back that spins on contact." Martindale said he'll be a "great challenge."

But the Ravens' defensive coordinator pointed to Pittsburgh's scheme as the bigger reason for why Pittsburgh is running the ball so well recently. And he has stats to back it up.

"They're back to playing Mike Tomlin-Steeler football, which is, they're making a commitment to the run game, and they're doing it out of bigger personnel," Martindale said.

"If you look at their stats, there are a lot of stats in different categories that the Steelers are actually better without [Bell], that they're better in those categories since 2015 without Le'Veon. So, that might be why he's riding a jet ski down in Miami right now."

For as good a year as Bell had last season, Conner is on pace to produce more rushing yards (1,369), more receiving yards (738) and more touchdowns (21) this season than Bell did a year ago.

The Ravens completely shut down Conner and Pittsburgh's run game in their Week 4 meeting, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to attempt 47 passes. Part of that was because the Ravens also got out to an early 14-point lead and limited Pittsburgh's possessions.

"We have to start faster," Conner said this week. "They have a great defense, one of the best defenses in football right now. So we'll have to protect the ball and really stay disciplined and move the ball."

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