It looks as though James Conner is going to be the Steelers feature back in 2020. Mike Tomlin addressed this topic on a Steelers Nation Unite call last week.
“I’m a featured runner-type guy by mentality. I think that when you have a featured runner it gives them an opportunity to drop a stake in the ground and allows others to rally around him and gives us a set of core, base run plays that he specializes in, and you find rhythm in that way.”
James Conner is a good player when he's healthy. In his second year, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and made the Pro Bowl. Conner's problem is that he's never healthy. Mike Tomlin should hold Conner to roughly 15 touches a game and spread the rest out among Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland.
Running back by committee is a trend in the NFL right now.
The 2019 Super Bowl winning Kansas City Chiefs ran for roughly 1,600 yards. They didn’t have a single player rush for over 500 yards.
The 2018 Super Bowl winning Patriots rushed for about 2,000 yards. Four players had over 300 yards from scrimmage from the running back position, including two players who flirted with 1,000 yards.
The 2017 Super Bowl Champion Eagles rushed for over 2,100 yards. They spread that load among five running backs.
The 49ers were able to have a ton of success this year. They had three backs rush for 544 or more yards. Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman each had 137 carries, while Matt Breida had 123.
Anthony McFarland can be a good player in this league. He wasn't drafted in the 4th round because he's not good enough. He was drafted in the 4th round because some around the league thought he had character concerns, and he also dealt with injuries in his final season at Maryland. He rushed for 298 yards against Ohio State when he was healthy in 2018.
Both he and Benny Snell can be used to compliment and supplement Conner. Well, only if the coach lets them, of course. He won't.
Mike Tomlin is a great coach. I've even been accused of being a Tomlin apologist. This is one area where I wish he'd improve. It's his biggest blind spot.