Steelers stat predictions: What kind of output will James Conner have in Week 1?

James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Steelers running back James Conner had an up and down season during his 2019 campaign. Here are my stat predictions for this matchup.

After James Conner’s 2018 pro bowl season with the Steelers, he definitely took a step back in production the following year. In his 2019 season, he finished with a less than ideal stat line of 464 yards rushing, 251 yards receiving, and only 7 total touchdowns.  To add salt to the wound, he averaged a very good 4.5 yards per carry (ypc) in 2017 and 2018, but it dropped to a mediocre 4.0 ypc in 2019.

There are many excuses for his lackluster 2019 season, such as no Ben Roethlisberger, injuries, and poor offensive line play. However, none of these excuses will be evident at the start of the 2020 season now that everyone is healthy which should also result in better offensive line play.

James Conner’s matchup

In 2019, the New York Giants owned the twentieth worse rushing defense in terms of yards given up per game, allowing about 113. However, they did own the fourth-best rushing defense in terms of opponent yards per carry (3.9) which was right behind the steelers defense (3.8).

These stats tell us many things. For one, they do give up a lot of yards on the ground, but that is due to the opposing teams rushing the ball in high volume. Last year, their opponents rushed the ball about twenty-nine times a game against them, ranking as the fourth-most in the NFL.

With the exception of former Giants linebacker, Deone Buccanon, all of their run stoppers on the defensive line and linebacking group from 2019 are returning for the 2020 season. This is a very good run-stopping unit and they were active in free agency to help bolster that unit even farther.

How the Steelers running back will perform week 1

Even though most eyes, if not all, will be on Ben Roethlisberger week one, James Conner will still receive a lot of attention. I believe he is still poised for a great game against a rather tough Giants defense due to his high volume.

My predicted stat line for James Conner: 23 carries, 115 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 5 catches, 50 receiving yards.

Yes, I am predicting his ceiling for this game. I am predicting this because I think this is what he will produce in this matchup. The Steelers defense will give him plenty of opportunities and I believe that will come in the second half, as Pittsburgh will take a more conservative offensive approach. They should have a big enough point differential at least midway through the third quarter to run the ball in heavy increments in order to chew the clock down along with preserve Ben Roethlisberger’s arm.

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Whereas it is very possible that James Conner does not put up these exact numbers, I believe he will come fairly close to them. Conner, being in a comeback year as well as a contract year, should come out and be poised to play some of his best football yet.