We are now at a point during the offseason in which we find ourselves looking at training camp just around the corner for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp soon to be here.
We are getting closer and closer to training camp now, which means that fans are getting closer and closer to getting their first real chance to meet the man with one of the highest-selling jerseys in the league right now, which belongs to third-round rookie running back James Conner.
Now, tons of fans already know him, of course. A native of Erie, PA, Conner was a star and a sensation playing for Pittsburgh at the collegiate level, and he drew national attention for being, as he acknowledges, the football player who beat cancer.
That is undoubtedly a part of his story and of his popularity. But he is ready to now just be the NFL running back. And that is something that he didn’t even get to do earlier this offseason, because he suffered a hamstring injury during the team’s rookie minicamp.
This injury was underreported at the time as it was assumed that it would be minor, but it actually resulted in Conner being forced to sit out or be limited for the vast majority of the Steelers’ OTA sessions and minicamp before they broke for the summer.
No doubt he will be looking forward to the fresh start in Latrobe when he can hit the ground running and be a full participant on the field. He figures to have plenty of opportunities for quality reps as well, and that will apply regardless of whether or not Le’Veon Bell shows up.
In fact, I would expect to see a ton of him during the preseason, which would make a lot of sense, since they will need to get the rookie prepared. The second running back—and even the third—has had to play significant roles for Pittsburgh in recent years.
Because he missed so much of the offseason, there isn’t a lot to say about him right now that isn’t common knowledge, but I’ll just add that I will be looking forward to him taking on the backs on backers drill, considering his defensive background and hard-hitting mentality. He would seem to be well-suited for it and might quickly become a favorite. Mike Tomlin will surely call his number early and often.