James Conner: We’re “fired up” to play with Mason Rudolph

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns
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The Steelers will rest several key starters on Sunday, but the starters who will be playing with the backups aren’t viewing the game against the Browns as a meaningless scrimmage.

Running back James Conner, who will play in what will be the final game of his rookie contract, is looking forward to the challenge — and to playing with quarterback Mason Rudolph.

“Just play a complete game and be our best selves,” Conner said, via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “That is what we preach. We’ve got standards. It doesn’t matter who the QB is in there. I know Mason is going to give us some energy at the spot. I know he is fired up to play. We are fired up to play with him as well. Line do what they do, backs, ball placement, run hard, receivers got to make plays. That’s really all it comes down to, play making.”

Rudolph, who played plenty in 2019 after Ben Roethlisberger suffered a season-ending injury in Week Two, has been preparing each week to get on the field.

“He comes to practice with the same mindset every day,” Conner said. “We measure our improvement in the work week and how we perform on game day. His approach to practice ever since I have seen him, he prepares like he is the starter. That is just how he works. Making plays. When we are in a practice setting, we see guys making plays. That is the time when we better ourselves. I have seen him be consistent with his approach to the work.”

The Steelers have relied too much on the passing game for most of the season. With Roethlisberger out for Week 17, the running game becomes even more important than it has been.

“We definitely need the running game,” Conner said. “It’s adversity, things that we deal with. It’s not a lack of effort, it’s none of that. Football is a humbling game. We’re not going to keep trying to search for answers and this and that. We are going to keep trying to play our football. That is what we are going to do this week. It’s always about the next opportunity. It is the journey you have up and down. I am familiar with adversity. I like it. I am looking forward to the next challenges and getting the running game going and more important winning.”

A Pittsburgh win coupled with a Buffalo loss would give the Steelers the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which would guarantee at least two home playoff games.

If they can win in the wild-card round. Which is a bigger “if” than it seemed to be a few weeks ago.