James Conner is the embodiment of Pittsburgh, both on the field and in his heart. Born in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a former member of the Pittsburgh Panthers, Conner has never played football for a team outside of the Pennsylvania. And by becoming a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization last night, Conner may never have to.
The perfect story of how in a matter of a year and a half, a local 21-year old beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and then rushed for over 1,000 yards in his final collegiate season may have just gotten its perfect ending. A Pennsylvania native with a heart of steel, Conner wraps up the seemingly perfect ending with a reminder note that he is also pretty good at running the football.
So be prepared to open your hearts for more reasons why you should love the notion of Conner wearing the Pittsburgh black and gold.
- Only one Pittsburgh Panther has more career rushing yards than Conner. That’s right, despite missing majority of 2015, only Tony Dorsett has eclipsed Conner’s career mark of 3733 rushing yards. Notable former Panthers that Conner has out rushed include Ray Graham, Dion Lewis and Hall of Famer Curtis Martin.
- Conner’s career average of 5.6 yards per carry is also the second most in Pittsburgh history. A downhill runner, Conner showed patience and vision to create yardage during his time at Pittsburgh. For comparison’s sake, Conner’s 5.6 YPC is almost a full yard more than LeSean McCoy’s 4.8 YPC gained during his time as a Panther.
- Conner is a notorious strong finisher and becomes more productive as the season progresses. Over his career, Conner has rushed for an average of 5.2 YPC in September, 5.4 YPC in October, 5.6 YPC in November and 7.7 YPC in December. While Conner has significantly fewer carries in December, it is still visually appealing to see the running back increase his production as the season grows in age. Conner’s ability to come in and be productive late in the season will be a valuable component for the Steelers’ offense as DeAngelo Williams seemed to lose speed towards the tail end of last season.
- Though he only received 25 targets last season, Conner had a catch percentage of 84-per cent. While Conner is no Le’Veon Bell, he is a better pass catcher than advertised and should fill in adequately as a receiving option out of the backfield.
- Saving the best for last, there has been no player better at finding the end zone in ACC history than Conner. His 56 touchdowns from scrimmage are the most in ACC history. The Steelers hope Conner can continue finding the end zone, as the team struggled to close out drives last season.
When one chapter ends, another begins. That is exactly the scenario Conner finds himself in as begins his path in creating another chapter of his life and football career. With a prelude into his Steelers’ career already published, the fan base waits for a hopefully long chapter of Conner’s black and gold glory.