James Conner is as Pittsburgh as it gets. Of course, we know that may not mean much in the football business.
Conner grew up two hours north of the city, in nearby Erie. He starred for the Pitt Panthers in college, where he was an All-American and the 2014 ACC Player of the Year. After a courageous battle with cancer, he fulfilled his NFL dreams in 2017, when the Pittsburgh Steelers took him in the third round.
With star running back Le’Veon Bell holding out in 2018, he ascended to the starting job, and was very impressive. He ran for 973 yards and picked up another 497 through the air, scoring 13 total touchdowns in 13 games. With Ben Roethlisberger missing much of last year, the Steelers’ offense took a dive last season, and Conner’s productivity with it.
Conner missed six games with an injury of his own in 2019. He wound up with 464 rushing and 251 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns from scrimmage. Now, his future in Pittsburgh may be in question.
Steelers’ RB James Conner, whose contract is up after this season, said it would be hard to leave Pittsburgh.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 19, 2020
James Conner discussed his future with his hometown team on Adam Schefter’s podcast for ESPN. He was very open about wanting to stay with the Steelers.
“It would be hard, it would be hard to put another helmet on. Just because of everything and what this city means to me,” he told the NFL insider, via ProFootballTalk.
“The city I played my college ball in, the city I had my life saved in, became healthy. The city I got drafted to and I want to be able to say the city I brought a championship to. It would be hard. I’m Pittsburgh through and through. But like I said, I’m big on my faith so I’m always going to end up doing and being where I’m supposed to be through the lord’s guidance and direction. We’ll see. We’ll take it one day at a time; I’m staying in the moment.”
Conner is a very popular player, and most Steeler fans would definitely love to have him around for a long while. We’ll see if the team agrees. With Roethlisberger likely set to retire in the next few years, Pittsburgh could decide that paying Conner like one of the best running backs in the NFL might not make sense within a full rebuild.
Pittsburgh bolstered the position a bit in last month’s NFL Draft, taking Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. in the fourth round of last month’s NFL Draft.