PIttsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has been one of the breakout stars this NFL season. However, he was only thrust into the starting role for the Steelers when All-Pro running back Le’veon Bell decided to hold out throughout this season for a new contract. Expectations were low going into Week 1 for the young running back, but Conner quickly quieted the critics. He has been an incredible threat from the ground this season and has even surprised everyone with his great receiving ability.
In Week 1 when the Steelers faced the Browns in Cleveland, Conner showed that the void left by Le’veon Bell in Pittsburgh would not have the repercussions on the team that many had expected. Conner ran and received for career highs in every stat category. Conner rushed 31 times for 135 yards and caught 5 passes for 57 yards. Later in the season, Conner rushed for over 100 yards in 4 straight games, with the Steelers winning all of these games. In addition to eclipsing 100 yards in these outings on the ground, Conner accumulated 7 touchdowns single-handedly.
Through 11 games this season, Conner has 849 yards off 186 carries (4.6 yards per carry) as well as 10 touchdowns. At this point last season, Le’veon Bell had 981 yards off 252 carries (3.9 yards per carry) and 5 touchdowns. James Conner has been more efficient with his carries and has scored on way less touches. Conner has consistently shown that he can fill the gap as a workhorse back that Le’veon Bell left and can be just as effective as the former All-Pro running back.. If James Conner maintains his consistency this season, he will surely be awarded with a Pro Bowl invitation and potentially other accolades.
James Conner can have an impact on the Steelers success indirectly as well. This season, excluding bonuses, James Conner is set to make $578,000. If Le’veon Bell had signed his franchise tag, he would have made $14,544,000. With Bell’s contract off the books next season, the Steelers will have much more cap flexibility for free-agency to sign other players and James Conner will only cost the team $688,000.