5 running backs who could replace James Conner for the Steelers in 2021

Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Aaron Jones #33 of the Green Bay Packers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33). Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Aaron Jones

In the free agency market, there is one back who would fit in the Steelers offense nicely. He could pay huge dividends if the Steelers could sign him. That would be Aaron Jones, the running back for the Green Bay Packers.  Jones Is 5’9” 208 pounds and a speedster if he breaks a tackle.

Jones entered the NFL in the  2017 season from Texas El-Paso. In four seasons with Green Bay, he has rushed for 3083 yards. In 2019 Jones broke the 1000 yard mark. He looks poised to surpass the 1000 yard mark again in 2020. With three games left, he needs 173 more yards. He is averaging 74.8 yards per game, so if he can manage that in his last three games, he should surpass that mark again. Another factor to like about Jones is that he has averaged 5.1 yards per carry for his entire career. Not too bad. Very few backs average that over a career. Not Walter Payton,  Emmitt Smith, nor Franco Harris. He is 12th in the NFL for yards per attempt for running backs with over 500 carries. The only active player in front of him is Nick Chubb, who has 5.27 yards per carry.

Many consider Jones to be a home run hitter in that he can break the long play on any carry. Certainly, the type of running back the Steelers lost when they failed to re-sign Le’Veon Bell. Plus, in two years, he has scored 24 touchdowns. Another aspect of the Steelers running game missing in 2020. Also, this should grab your attention. The Steelers in all of 2020 have 67 first downs by running the ball. In all of 2020 so far, Jones has 41 rushing first downs. That’s 61 percent as many first downs as the Steelers have run for all season.  The lack of rushing first downs has hurt the Steelers in their last five games.

Jones is explosive, he’s a good receiving back as well. His only knock has been some durability. He missed eight games in his first two seasons.  In total, he may end up missing two games in 2020. Not as bad as Conner, at least not yet anyway. The only other downside to Jones would be his contract. He is likely to ask for a four-year deal in the $50 million range. That would put his yearly salary in the $13 million-plus range. For a team like the Steelers who will be cash strapped and have many other players to resign, that may be a bit steep. If so, there are a few other alternatives that would be more affordable.