Pittsburgh Steelers: Don’t jump the gun on James Conner


For the Pittsburgh Steelers, expectations for their third-round pick, James Conner, are simple – rookie running back.

There seems to be an overwhelming amount of people in the sports world who are very optimistic about James Conner. Rightfully so considering he was one of the best running backs in college football before and after being beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

With two injuries during training camp, though, Conner’s productivity has been limited. Although, he’s certainly shined when on the field, his expectations have decreased considering his inability to stay healthy so far this offseason.

Now, just because the excitement surrounding him has dropped, doesn’t mean he’s less talented or going to be less of a star. One day, James Conner is going to take over the NFL rushing game, hopefully in Pittsburgh.

Until then, though, he’s only a rookie learning behind the best running back in the NFL. Even if that running back hasn’t taught him anything yet.

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This is where Conner’s potential is truly maxed out. He’s already a hometown hero, who no Steelers fan wants to see play anywhere else throughout his career. Right now, he may be ready to take over the backfield, but definitely not over Le’Veon Bell.

At 25-years-old, Bell has plenty of time left in his career. As arguably the best back in the league, whether he’s being a little ridiculous about his new contract or not, there’s no point in sending him anywhere else. We know that, and the Steelers know that.

No. 26 will be around for a least a few more years. During which, he’ll be guiding Conner. As the two begin working together, the rookie sensation will be sculpting his craft by learning from someone who’s already redefined the running back position.

Because of this, Conner’s potential is through the roof. And as excited as some people are for his future, they forget that he’s not ready to be that superstar yet. The best part, though, is that Pittsburgh already has a star in the backfield.

Conner isn’t going to take over this backfield for years, no matter how much Bell upsets the team and the fans. Even if he doesn’t reach a contract agreement next offseason, he’ll likely be franchise tagged, and with two more solid years almost certain to happen, there’ll be almost no excuse not to continue working on a deal with the back.

When it is No. 30’s turn, though, he’ll have a few years of experience, plenty of playing time as the No. 2 back on the team, and a ton of guidance from an All-Pro running back. In other words – a combination of a Hall of Fame career.

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His expectations are simple – rookie running back with a bright future. Right now, that may be all we know about James Conner’s future in the NFL. But with the tools he has in front of him, he’s looking at a career much more successful than most third-round picks.