James Conner is not Le’Veon Bell and that’s perfectly fine. Given what Conner has been through in his life, he doesn’t need to be anyone else. And those struggles have made the second-year running back more than ready to take over for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For those who don’t know, Conner was a first-team All-American in 2014 at Pitt and was named ACC Player of the Year after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns. He tore his MCL on September 5, 2015, and while rehabbing from that injury he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy yet continued to work out in non-contact drills with his teammates.
On May 23, 2016 he announced he was cancer-free on Twitter. In 2016 he returned to rush for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns for Pitt before announcing his intention to enter the 2017 NFL Draft. The Erie, Pennsylvania native was selected by the Steelers in the third-round.
Given everything he’s been through do you think Conner is intimidated by stepping into Le’Veon Bell’s roster spot? I think it’s safe to say the 23-year-old is more than ready for his close-up.
As a rookie Conner didn’t light things up, rushing for 144 yards and four touchdowns on 32 carries in 14 games. But he’s looked more decisive in the preseason during his second campaign and the video shows it:
In four games, Conner rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (5.3 yards per carry), he also had seven receptions for 61 yards. At 6’1″ and 233 pounds he has the size to take the between-the-tackles pounding and the hands to be an effective weapon in the passing game.
Conner is more than ready for this opportunity and he won’t be intimidated by the spotlight.