Rookie Conner thrives in Bell's absence against Falcons

Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers may not need to shell out the big bucks for Le'Veon Bell after all.

With Bell yet to report to the Steelers or sign his franchise tag, rookie James Conner carried the load in the running game Sunday, making a very impressive preseason debut against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Pittsburgh-area native saw action throughout the game, setting up a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter with back-to-back run plays, gashing the Falcons defense.

Conner finished the game with 98 yards on 20 carries and had one catch for three yards in the 17-13 win. While it is only the preseason and the sample size is small, Conner's first NFL action should give the Steelers some confidence if they need to say goodbye to Bell sooner then they would have preferred.