Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has certainly been through worse moments in his life, but that doesn’t change the fact that the second-year player is pretty down on himself after failing the team in some key situations over the course of the past two games. And when it comes in a loss, it’s all that much more difficult.
A week after dropping two big passes, one of which resulted in a turnover on downs late and the other accounting for what would have been the go-ahead score, instead setting up a third and 10 from the 27, Conner lost a huge fumble at the tail end of a 23-yard screen pass in the waning moments of the third quarter of yesterday’s loss to the Denver Broncos.
It was a tie game at 17-17 at the time when a sack pushed the Steelers back to second and 16. They countered on the following play with the screen pass, on which Conner showed good burst, but as Bradley Roby looked to tackle him, and he tried to evade the tackle, the ball popped out, and the Broncos recovered at the 21-yard line.
“I just tried to get outside and make a big play”, he recalled of that moment after the game. “I think I just let it go. I tried to recover the ball, but couldn’t get it”. The cornerback never did actually get a piece of the football, seeing it simply dislodge from his grasp instead. To his credit, he did look to nearly recover it.
The Broncos would go on to drive down the field 79 yards for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning score, scoring 14 unanswered points off of turnovers, turning a 10-17 deficit into a 24-17 lead that would stand. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s earlier interception on the previous drive provided them with possession on their own side of the field, and they would score two plays after that.
“I just wanted to win the game”, Conner said. “I’m a competitor. Sorry to be short. I’m not in a good mood”.
The running back finished with 53 rushing yards on just 13 attempts. He added another 42 receiving yards on four receptions to give him a total of 95 yards from scrimmage on 17 touches, but he failed to score for the second straight game after compiling 11 touchdowns in nine games.
He now sits at 849 rushing yards on the season on 186 attempts, averaging 4.6 yards per carry with 10 rushing touchdowns in addition to 453 receiving yards on 49 catches and another touchdown. But he has also fumbled the football four times this season, and the two that he lost have cost the Steelers pretty significantly.
That said, his miscues over the past two games are no indication of his overall level of play, and there is no reason to believe that this minor issues will continue to snowball. Right now he is his own worst enemy and simply has to remain confident in himself. And hold on to the football under any circumstances.