How we know Steelers RB James Conner is here to stay

James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
James Conner Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Despite some lingering talks still surrounding the running back situation for the Steelers, the solidity of James Conner’s job is nonetheless evident.

For a while now, I have been an advocate for the continuation of James Conner being RB1 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ever since he was looked upon to fill the sizable shoes of Le’Veon Bell following his rather tense departure from the organization, James has proven to be a reliable talent for the offense to show off against opposing defenders every Sunday. But after an abysmal showing last season from not just Conner, but from the Steel City’s rushing attack altogether, there have been discussions regarding the need to potentially go in another direction for who should headline the backfield. However, with all the chatter in the media seating itself amongst other names and positions that Pittsburgh needs to address, I feel that it is safe to label James Conner as spared from any offseason relocation or replacement.

The doubtfulness of the Pro Bowler’s security on the depth chart truly started to die down when his name was not thrown into the mix of those seemingly in jeopardy when it came to either being cut or not being re-signed. Common sense would tell us that if Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster were both being deemed at-risk of removal before James Conner was, then clearly he was not a major target on anyone’s radar to begin with.

After Steelers veteran Maurkice Pouncey officially announced his retirement from the NFL, that is what just about killed off running back talks completely as far as Pittsburgh was concerned. Such heartbreaking news turned all of the attention towards who the successor was going to be at the center position. Subsequently, rumors of how the Steelers may pursue standout Alabama RB Najee Harris with their sole first-round pick seemed to fade away. At around the same time, the theory of them using said pick for an overbearing center became more widely accepted, and took the place of the aforementioned running back idea for a lot of people.

In my opinion, all of this information swirling around news sources, from NFL insiders to everyday fans, made all of those with an opinion resort to putting the Conner criticism on the back burner, assuming that they did not forget about it entirely. And quite frankly, that is the way it should be. Even if James sucked, he would still not be my biggest fish to fry if my 11-year center had just decided to hang it up, or if my franchise QB wanted to negotiate the finances of his contract, or if one of my star wide receivers was a controversial figure with free agency on the horizon.

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James Conner is someone who I whole-heartedly believe is capable of leading the running game for the Steelers, at least until further notice. As I mentioned at the beginning of this take, James has proven before that he can handle that exact task being placed upon his shoulders, and manage it to a bragworthy degree no less. A few seasons ago, I would have gone as far as to make the argument that he was a top ten back in the league. Could he ever return to that status? Maybe, but we should probably let the new center get settled in first.