Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for 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 move forward.
Player: RB James Conner
Stock Value: Down
Another week has gone by, another game for which James Conner, last year’s Pro Bowl runner, has been declared out. The third-year running back has been sidelined, outside of one quarter of play, since his best outing of the season, rushing for 145 yards against the Miami Dolphins.
Conner injured his shoulder that day, causing him to miss the end of the game. He would sit out the next two games before attempting to return in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, but had to tap out at the end of the first quarter after getting six touches on 13 snaps.
He has not been back on the field since, essentially having missed the past five games and now ruled out for Sunday’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals, as well. He has said every week since the Browns game that his injury is such that if he plays on it before it’s properly healed, surgery would be a necessity rather than an option.
It’s not at all clear right now that Conner will make it back in time to play in 2019 right now. The Steelers will have three games remaining in the regular season following tomorrow’s contest. He is dangerously close to having missed half of the year now due to this unfortunate injury, and as we wrote about yesterday, also close to missing the Proven Performance Escalator.
Over eight games, Conner has rushed for 390 yards on 102 carries with four touchdowns, adding another 30 receptions for 242 yards and two more touchdowns. Heh as 632 total yards from scrimmage with six scores in seven-plus games after totaling 1470 yards and 13 scores in 13 games a year ago.
Heading into his fourth year in 2020, this would normally be the time at which the Steelers would work out a long-term extension for a non-first-round starter, but with his injury history, it’s not clear how the front office is viewing him for the long term.