James Conner averaged over 100 yards from scrimmage during his Pro Bowl season of 2018, recording 1470 yards from scrimmage in spite of the fact that he only played in 13 games due to injury. He hardly got half of that same yardage total despite playing in 10 games during the 2019 season, though a number of those games were shortened or limited due to injury as well.
From the time that he was injured against the Miami Dolphins in the seventh game of the season, he would play in just three more games for the rest of the year, for a total of 56 additional snaps, though he would manage 20 touches in that time, averaging better than a touch per three snaps.
It wasn’t just one injury, but a series of overlapping injuries, that torpedoed Conner’s 2019 season, which should have set him up to go into this year strong—possibly even with a healthy contract extension. Instead, he’s just looking to re-establish himself, and allow the chips fall where they may next year. But the good news is that he’s ready for it, physically and mentally.
“I’m feeling great now. I kind of just put that last year behind me”, he told Erie News Now. “The body feels great right now. I’m just doing everything I can to get those muscles strong and put all the right things in and just be that machine that I know I can be. I’m looking forward to a big season this year”.
Conner has previously talked about how he has tried to make the best of the situation, rededicating himself to his wellbeing during the pandemic. He changed up his diet, and recalibrated his workout plan, going back to the basics at the start. And we have seen the results that he has shared on social media.
In 2020, the Steelers could have a crowded backfield, because they keep drafting running backs. Still here is Jaylen Samuels, a fifth-round pick in 2018. Benny Snell, last year’s fourth-round pick, returns for his second season after rushing for over 400 yards and two scores as a rookie.
Then you have the latest, rookie Anthony McFarland, who represents the biggest change of pace in the room because of his speed. And lest we forget, Kerrith Whyte is still here. He was brought in late in the year from the Bears’ practice squad, but is also a player who adds that speed dimension that they have otherwise lacked.
But what would the Steelers do, for example, if Conner played in all 16 games, not missing a snap due to injury? What if he recorded over 2000 yards from scrimmage, and added 14-15 touchdowns? Would they try to keep him, knowing that he still has an injury history, and what would his price tag be? The answer to that question would come at least in part based on what the rest of the group looks like.