3 players the Pittsburgh Steelers shouldn't have let go in recent years

Steelers, James Conner
Steelers, James Conner / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
2 of 3

James Conner was a cheap, quality option

The decision to let James Conner walk away had much bigger ramifications than most fans care to think about. After averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 7.8 yards per reception during his Steelers career, Kevin Colbert allowed the Erie native to walk away following the 2020 season.

Conner immediately went on to earn his second Pro Bowl appearance and the best season of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals -- racking up 18 total touchdowns in 15 games. He did all of this on a one-year, $1.75 million contract. This strong play eventually helped him earn a three-year, $21 million deal with the Cardinals.

But simply letting Conner walk wasn't the bad part. The Steelers then thought it was necessary to spend a first-round pick to replace him. Sadly, Pittsburgh's running game has been worse in each of the two seasons since he left, and Najee Harris has been inefficient as a runner early in his career.

The decision to let James Conner walk away instead of paying him nearly $2 million caused the Steelers to burn elite draft capital on a running back who has not lived up to his billing. Ironically, Pittsburgh is paying over $3.2 million per year to Harris on his rookie contract with over $13 million in total guarantees.