Even if it weren’t for Le’Veon Bell burning his bridges in a city of them over the course of the past two years, James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers would still be loved by this blue-collar town. An Erie native who was a star at Pitt, he was one of those players who felt destined to land with a specific team in the draft. And, of course, he did land in Pittsburgh.
Now he enters the 2019 season, his third in the NFL, coming off a Pro Bowl performance and recognized as the undisputed starter after putting up roughly 1500 yards from scrimmage with 13 scores in 13 games played, Bell now in New York after sitting out the 2018 season.
Conner, a cancer survivor who has gone through multiple knee injuries, is not one who believes in coincidences. Agree with it or not, it’s one of the things that fuels him and colors his life view. And for him, it’s no coincidence that he’s in Pittsburgh, doing what he’s doing right now.
That’s a subject, among many, that he discussed lately during a podcast with Mike Stud, which you can watch below. Toward the middle of the extended interview, he talked about overcoming Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while rehabbing a torn knee at the same time, only to come back and be drafted by the Steelers—but to play behind Bell.
“None of it’s coincidence”, he said at one point. “I’m supposed to be in the ‘Burgh. I’m supposed to be in this city. The same city I played my college ball, where I’m from, got my treatment—it don’t ever happen [this way]. It never happened before. It was meant to be. It was definitely meant to be”.
During his rookie season, of course, he spent the spring and summer running with the first-team offense only for Bell to walk through the door at the last minute and retake his starting role. But he said that he was “chomping at the bit” a year later, knowing that Bell had said if he were tagged again, he would hold out, taking about how he balled out in training camp and was in the best shape of his life, knowing the potential for an opportunity.
“I came back and balled out all season long, went to the Pro Bowl”, he said of his 2019 performance. “That experience was crazy. I remember being with my boys back in the day sitting on the couch watching the Pro Bowl, watching the stars. It’s like, the Pro Bowl’s the best of the best…just the fact that I’m there…it was crazy”.
He also said he was going to go back to the Pro Bowl every year from now on. Or at least be selected for it, because the goal is to be ineligible to play because you have to play in the Super Bowl a week later. No matter what he does from this point forward, however, he knows that it’s all part of his story, one that was made to be told.