The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: James Conner
Position: Running Back
Experience: 1 Year
The Steelers have to be asking themselves what second-year running back James Conner’s ceiling is as they look to negotiate a long-term extension for their star starter, Le’Veon Bell. While they likely did not draft him with visions of him being a starter—the team was still trying to work out a long-term contract extension during the draft last year with Bell—we are reaching a point at with a future where the two coexist is unlikely.
That means that Conner could play a much bigger role, though not necessarily. With Bell, it’s difficult for him to even get much playing opportunity because of the extent to which the veteran sees the field. In the 14 games that he played during his rookie season, for example, he only carried the football 32 times.
He did, however, find some success while doing so, rushing for a total of 144 yards, which resulted in about four and a half yards per carry. Generally regarded as a bigger back, he has been surprising people with his explosiveness going back to his college days and showed that burst in limited moments.
Of his 32 carries, for example, six of them went for 10 or more yards, though only one of them went for 20 or more yards (in fact, only one of them was more than 13 yards). A deeper look into his carries would be more illuminating.
Using the standards of 45 percent of needed yardage on first down, 60 percent on second, and 100 percent on third and fourth, Conner recorded successful carries on 14 of his 32 attempts, which is an average of about 44 percent. That ratio is not particularly bad nor good, but it is a small sample size either way.
Four of his carries went for negative yardage, however, and a total of six went for no yardage, which is nearly 20 percent, and that is on the high end of the spectrum. Just under half of his carries picked up at least five yards.
Of course, at the moment he is healing from a torn MCL. He also has a lot of work to do in the passing game, both as a pass-catcher and protector, which is something that he talked about this offseason.