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
As we continue to move along in the offseason and start taking stock of broader evaluations, it strikes me as odd some of the names I’m seeing trend down, and who has trended up, perhaps in defiance of pre-season expectations.
I talked about Maurkice Pouncey and his stock being down this past year, and another whom I view in a similar fashion would be third-year running back James Conner, who despite some impressive moments, more than anything simply could not stay on the field.
Conner was limited to just 10 games on the season, but some of those games featured him being injured or playing a very limited role. There were two games in which he played a combined 22 snaps, and another three in which he saw no more than 31 snaps. In fact, he only saw 70 percent or more of the snaps in just two games.
Amazingly enough, Benny Snell actually had twice as many games with 15-plus carries as did Conner, who had just two. He had 23 rushing attempts in his best game of the season, in which he rushed for 145 yards, one off his career-high, but that’s also the game in which he injured his shoulder, which would cause him to miss the better part of a month and a half. That was also the only game in which he played more than 48 snaps, amazing 61 snaps in that game.
Overall, he finished the season with 464 rushing yards on 116 attempts, for four yards a carry. He did have four rushing touchdowns, and added seven receiving touchdowns, so he did manage to get into the end zone often enough, despite playing fewer than 350 snaps on the year.
He also got off to a really slow start to the season, not running the ball particularly well or efficiently. Yet there were still times in which he looked like his peak self, showing surprising power or elusiveness, both on the ground and as a receiving threat.
I don’t think his talent is really all that much in question, though. The mystery is and remains whether or not he will be able to stay on the field long enough to make a consistent impact. He has had a relatively seriously injury each year of his career so far, and of course we know serious injuries go back to his college days as well. Meanwhile, he enters a contract year.