Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has suggested James Conner deserves to keep his starting spot even when Le'Veon Bell returns.
Star running back Bell has stayed away since the offseason due to a contract dispute after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for the second year in a row.
Bell has yet to sign the $14.5million tag and he may have to build bridges with some of his offensive line, who have been outspoken in their criticism of his approach.
In his absence, second-year back Conner has rushed for 342 yards in the opening five games, scoring five touchdowns as well as amassing 239 receiving yards in a mixed start to the season for the Steelers, who are 2-2-1 in the AFC North.
It has been suggested that Bell will return during the Week 7 bye and play in Week 8 against the Cleveland Browns but Roethlisberger believes Conner has done enough to warrant his place.
"I think James has done some amazing things and deserves to be on the field," Pittsburgh's quarterback said.
"We also know what Le'Veon is and what he brings to the table. I guess we'll cross that bridge if and when it happens.
"If you look at the overall picture of what we've asked him [Conner] to do every week, I think it's been going up every week.
"I think that's what gets lost in what a running back [does] and what he's been doing - pass blocking, picking up the blitz, catching out of the backfield.
"I don't want to jinx anything, but he's catching almost everything I'm throwing to him, and he's in the right spot all the time quickly."
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