Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: RB James Conner
Stock Value: Up
Entering his first offseason in which he understands (at least, most likely) that he is going to be a full-time starter, James Conner has apparently picked up his preparation even more from last season. He has been described as looking leaner and yet also stronger than last offseason.
Perhaps that should not be a total shock, though, considering that he had to spent at least part of last offseason recovering from knee surgery after he tore his MCL late in the 2017 season, his rookie year. He still reported to OTAs in phenomenal shape in spite of that, but his conditioning now compared to this time a season ago has taken yet another step.
Not only that, he also obviously has a year’s worth of experience under his belt. He has a much better understanding of what he needs to improve upon because now he has an extensive body of evidence from which to judge that.
One area I’d like to see him improve upon is ball security, considering that he fumbled the ball four times last year. I can’t help but wonder if new running backs coach Eddie Faulkner is bringing anything new to the table in that regard. From the videos available on the team’s website, it appears that they might indeed be doing new ball-security drills, including in the passing game.
According to Conner himself, the Steelers did not advise him to report under any sort of specific stipulations in terms of his physique and conditioning other than to be in shape, so it wasn’t a request for him to come in even leaner than he was last season. He wouldn’t discuss specific weight numbers, but said that his weight fluctuates during the season anyway. As it does with many players, something fans don’t really think about much.
Perhaps most encouraging is the continued persistence of his driven attitude. Even coming off a Pro Bowl season, he still feels as though he has to earn every snap he gets, which is the ideal way to get yourself to continue to get better.