Rightly so, the focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has centered around Ben Roethlisberger and his comeback from a miserable, injury-shortened 2019 season. You could say similar about James Conner, whose having an similarly impressive season while staying out of the trainer’s room. Roethlisberger spoke with reporters Wednesday morning and praised the job Conner has done through the first five games.
“I think you’ve seen what he’s been able to do,” Roethlisberger said. “I throw numbers out because it doesn’t matter if he runs for 100 yards or whatever he’s doing. He’s running efficiently, he’s scoring touchdowns when we get down close to the goal line. He’s giving us first downs when we need those. I think his game is at an all-time high. He’s picking up blitzes, he’s catching the ball out of the backfield when we need him to. And he’s getting the tough yards when we need them as well.”
In Week 6 against the Browns, Conner rushed for his third 100+ yard performance of the season, toting the rock 20 times for 101 yards and one score. On tape, it was his best game of the season, making multiple defenders miss – our Josh Carney has him down for seven broken tackles – and finishing multiple runs by dragging defenders forward.
So far this season, Conner has carried the ball 75 times for 369 yards, an average of 4.9 YPC, with four rushing touchdowns. That 4.9 YPC ranks tied for eighth among all running backs. Those four scores equal the number he had all of last season, a year hampered by nagging injuries including a shoulder problem he never fully recovered from.
Conner is on pace for nearly a 1500 yard from scrimmage season and overall, putting up numbers that resemble what he did in 2018. If he stays healthy, he’ll do even better.
Roethlisberger said he has a simple, clear message he often relays to Conner.
“The thing I always tell him is to just have fun. When he has fun, he plays great football.”
Crucially, Conner is bouncing back in a contract season. Playing to either return to the Steelers or much more likely, to land a respectable-sized contract with another team this offseason.