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This & That: Staying ready, 'A' game & more

Posted Nov 10, 2017

James Conner is staying ready, time to bring the 'A' game, and ready for a second half surge.

Staying ready: As expected, Le’Veon Bell is getting the lion’s share of the carries for the Steelers, with 194 carries for 760 yards at the midway point of the season.

Rookie James Conner, who is Bell’s primary backup, has just 18 carries for 89 yards, not something he stresses and said it hasn’t been tough waiting for reps because he knows what Bell brings to the offense.

“I knew what the situation was when they drafted me, he was going to be the man,” said Conner. “I am okay with that. I am blessed to be a Steeler. We just want to keep winning.

“I am learning a lot, taking advantage of this time. I am learning a lot from Le’Veon and all of the guys, how to be a professional. As long as we win, I am good.”

Conner said he remains prepared if called upon, and continues to work on every aspect of his game, including his pass protection. Conner wasn’t asked to do much in pass protection while at the University of Pittsburgh, but things are different in the Steelers’ offense.

“I am a professional. I have to protect the quarterback,” said Conner. “I still have to improve on it until I 150 percent know what I am doing. It’s not the physical part of it. It’s knowing who to pick up. I can handle my own. That is not the case. It’s a little bit of everything, studying, practice reps, game reps, it all plays a factor.”

Bringing the ‘A’ game: The Steelers head into Sunday’s game against the Colts with a 6-2 record, leading the AFC North, and at the top of the AFC along with New England.

But there is still the second half of the season to play, and there is no room for a letdown.

“If we keep this train going, we can get to where we want to go,” said Marcus Gilbert. “We can’t take any steps back. This is a really good team we are going to play this weekend. We have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

One of the big challenges the team will face is dealing with the noise inside Lucas Oil Stadium, a place that isn’t friendly for visiting teams.

“It’s tough,” said Gilbert. “They are playing good solid football, especially on defense. We have to go out there and execute the game plan and not shoot ourselves in the foot. They are a really good team. We can’t go out there and lay an egg.”

Second half surge: The second half of the season begins for the Steelers on Sunday in Indianapolis, and the hope is it’s a repeat of what the second half of the season was like for the black and gold last year.

The Steelers got off to a 4-4 start in 2016, but went 7-1 in the second half of the year to win the AFC North and advance to the AFC Championship game.

“I definitely feel the last few years we started to gel down the stretch a lot better, especially last year,” said Ryan Shazier. “People started to understand what they had to do better. Guys understand it’s the push for the playoffs. Last year was crazy. If we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have been in the position we were in. We want to continue to play at the high level and focus on winning.”