The Pittsburgh Steelers certainly did not put their best foot forward on either side of the ball tonight, but a few individuals did. And most of them were named James. But we’ll talk about the more veteran of the two first, as second-year running back James Conner impressed in his short stint in the game against the Green Bay Packers.
Conner, who is getting all of the first-team reps that Le’Veon Bell would ordinarily be taking, finished the game with 57 rushing yards on just five carries on three drives’ worth of work, though it was essentially two since the first one ended in one play with a pick six.
He actually gained a total of minus-one yard through his first two carries on the second drive of the game, but took over on the third, dominating the Packers’ defense. It started with an eight-yard run, and was followed up by a 24-yarder, which added 15 thanks to a facemask he fell victim to in the hole near the line of scrimmage.
Beast Mode Jr. pic.twitter.com/HIP8o2dreB
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 17, 2018
In all of three plays, he went from the Steelers’ 27-yard line to the end zone, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown run. Overall, he ran with power, quickness, explosiveness, and perhaps most significantly, with authority.
— NFL (@NFL) August 17, 2018
Conner’s brief stint in the game was one of the few bright spots of what was overall a rough night for the team, which started both halves with a pick six and saw the defense get scored on by seemingly have a dozen different quarterbacks, including a couple of backups that they faced as starters a year ago.
While he did not really get the opportunity to show much of anything in the passing game, either as a pass catcher or as a blocker—and is certainly something that we must see from him going forward—his work in the running game was nothing short of impressive.
It was also an affirmation of an entire offseason’s worth of diligent work that is slowly coming to a head and bearing fruit by getting results on the field. Conner has worked very hard this offseason, not just on his game but on his body, and looks ready to be a contributor this season.
Whether or not he actually gets to be much of a contributor is another question, and is largely dependent upon Bell and how often he stays on the field. Will the Steelers use him more as a receiver with Conner also on the field together? That is one proposal that has been floated out.
But that’s a question to be answered in the future, for now, we should appreciate his efforts on the field tonight and what that performance foretells about the career laid out before him. And hopefully we can get even more excited when he gets more work in the passing game with success.