Two weeks from Wednesday evening the 2021 free agency signing period will officially get underway and several Pittsburgh Steelers will then be free to sign with other teams. One of the nearly 20 soon-to-be unrestricted free agents that is expected to sign elsewhere in the next several weeks is running back James Conner. That’s not really breaking news, however, but it sure would seem that way based on the way Brooke Pryor of ESPN framed it Tuesday morning in her post on the Steelers approaching free agency,
“The Steelers have to address the running back position in the draft,” Pryor wrote. “Though a fan favorite for his ties to the community and battle with cancer, Conner is unlikely to be re-signed and the Steelers need a new No. 1 back. Snell struggled to consistently fill that role when Conner was injured and neither McFarland nor Samuels have the makeup of a No. 1. The Steelers will be in the market to add a new face, likely through an early-round pick in the draft.”
The only way Conner would be re-signed by the Steelers would be if he were to agree to a one or two-year contract fort at or near the minimum. That’s just not likely to happen as Conner’s market value figures to be at least $3 million per year on the low side and maybe even as high as $6.5 million if a team really wants him.
Conner, who has missed quite a few games so far during his first four seasons in the NFL, registered his best set of stats in 2018 when he rushed for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns on 215 total carries in just 13 games played.
Conner has played in just 23 total regular season games and rushed for 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns on 285 total carries. The Pittsburgh product also had 69 receptions for 466 yards and three touchdowns over the course of the last two seasons.
Assuming Conner does sign elsewhere in the coming weeks, the Steelers will likely replace him via an early-round draft pick with Najee Harris Javonte Williams and Travis Etienne leading the list of candidates to be that selection.