Steelers sign James Conner

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The Steelers signed a running back to a long-term deal! (Not that one.)

With starter Le’Veon Bell still unsigned and restrained by the one-year franchise tender, the Steelers have agreed to terms with a player who will be his backup and, possibly in time, his successor. The team announced on Thursday that former Pitt running back James Conner has signed a four-year deal.

Conner, the 105th overall pick in the draft, becomes the fourth Pittsburgh draft pick to sign.

“We needed more people to complement Le’Veon,” G.M. Kevin Colbert said on Thursday’s PFT Live. One of the things that intrigued us about James is his ability to help us on special teams as well as being a quality complementary runner. The kid has rushed the passer for Pitt on several occasions, so you know he has that mentality. He won’t be a pass rusher in the NFL, but because he has that mentality and that willingness, he will be able to help us out on special teams. And that’s exciting, and all the intangibles aside with James, we really think he can be a valuable football player as well.”

Conner’s biggest intangible by far is that fought and defeated cancer to return to college football. He finished his career at Pitt as No. 2 in all-time rushing yards (3,733), total touchdowns (56) and rushing touchdowns (52) charts. He set the ACC record for total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, too.