James Conner ends up being a steal for the Cardinals

USA TODAY Sports

The supply of competent running backs far outweighs the demand. That reality, however, can cause potentially great running backs to get lost in the shuffle.

James Conner, after four years with the Steelers, became a free agent in March. The team that drafted him had no interest in keeping him, planning instead to use a first-round pick on a replacement. Once Conner landed on the open market, he languished. Four weeks later, he signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Cardinals.

Dollar for dollar, it ended up being one of the best free-agent deals in recent years.

Conner has 964 yards from scrimmage in 13 games, and 16 touchdowns. He has scored at least once in seven straight games. (In those seven games, he has scored 11 times.)

For the year, he has 29 catches, along with several impressive one-handed efforts. Last night, he caught nine passes for 94 yards.

It’s not clear why it didn’t work for Conner in Pittsburgh. A local favorite after surviving cancer while at Pitt, Conner had periodic injury issues, missing 14 games in four seasons. He made it to a Pro Bowl in 2018, with 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns.

Still, when the time came for his contract to end, the Steelers moved on. The Cardinals are surely happy that they did.

22 responses to “James Conner ends up being a steal for the Cardinals

  1. it didnt work out in pittsburgh because the o-line was not good, and therefore everyone assumed the rb wasn’t also. without a good line, every back looks mediocre.

  2. The Steelers offensive line is bad and he had nowhere to run and they still are bad.

  3. Funny. As I recall the first time I saw Conner play with the Steelers was when Bell was holding out and I thought with how well Conner was doing, the Steelers didn’t need Bell. Three years later they think he’s no good?

  4. If they let Chandler Jones walk, Connor might get an extension.

    I’m guessing a team like Miami might offer him $7-8M a year though on the open market so if Jones is tagged, the Cards can’t spend the money on a RB with JJ Watt tying up so much money and Murray on the precipice of a monster contract.

    Maybe he wants to stick around and give AZ a slight discount to the tune of 5.5-6M a year for 3 years.

  5. He was often injured…and when he wasn’t, he often put the ball on the ground in key situations. Good guy. Great story. Glad things have worked out for him.

  6. I mean this thing is kind of written like Arizona knocked it out of the park on purpose. I mean Conner was 37th in the league for RB total cash for 2021. Not exactly a we are all in on you type of contract not to mention it was a 1 year deal. This was more a we were swinging for a single and accidentally hit a HR. The big thing is going to be what do they do next year?

  7. His injury issues weren’t just “periodic”; they were, sadly, consistent. Conner was like Tyron Smith in Dallas, except Smith plays a premium position and is a HOF-level talent. If Conner were dynamic enough, he might have been worth the injuries, but the fact is a good (but not dynamic) RB like him can only really be valuable if he can be relied upon. Otherwise, each time he is unavailable he pulls a rug out from under the gameplan. It’s good to see him having a strong year – he is *very* easy to root for – and if he can pull a Fred Taylor and overcome an long early-career list of injuries to become reliable, that’d be great!

  8. The biggest issue was his injuries. Missing 14 games in four seasons is basically missing one of his four seasons. While he is a good receiver also he seemed to have several drops for the Steelers at critical times. They would have probably kept him if he hadn’t been hurt so often. I wish him continued health with the Cardinals.

  9. I guess so, he’s and all but….they still lost a critical game to an overrated team, that is the Rams.

  10. I guess so, he’s good and all but….they still lost a critical game to an overrated team, that is the Rams.

  11. Typical Flooreeo Steelers hate.
    He wasn’t “periodically injured”, nor was it “not clear why it didn’t work out” in Pittsburgh. He never made it through a full season healthy as a starter and left too many games injured before halftime to garner a second contract.

    His ypa average is actually at his lowest ever this season so the “the Steelers had a crap O-Line” argument is just silly. This is his worst year in terms of running efficiency but his receiving numbers are up slightly, he’s found the endzone more and he ha stayed healthy. That’s the difference.

  12. I’ve got no dog in this fu go t (browns fan) , but Connor looked bigger faster and stronger than I remember him with Steelers. By a lot.

  13. dadindebt6 says:
    The biggest issue was his injuries. Missing 14 games in four seasons is basically missing one of his four seasons.
    —————————–
    Yes. And it wasn’t just one injury that cost him those 14 games [torn ACL, etc], which you can write off as ‘stuff happens.’ it was a bunch of 2 game injuries–each one some place different. He was very unreliable.

  14. Connor’s biggest advantage is they know how to use him in AZ; Getting him out in space where he can use his agility, while taking advantage of his receiving skills. He also is not the starter as Chase Edmonds gets most of the work, which helps with not being overused and getting worn down – subjecting him to injuries. In Pittsburgh they tried to use like he was Jim Brown or something.

  15. Amazing redemption story.. Doing it a third time – cancer, pro bowl, and likely another this year.

    Not a steelers fan. That Pitt oline was terrible and still is. No one had any success running the ball last season.

    Najee is an incredible talent, and what little success he’s had I think is more a credit to his skill and talent rather than Pitt oline.

    Would love to see him NH running in clock killing mode though!

  16. He’s a good story for a decent receiving back but if you want 4 yards on a running play, he isn’t your best bet. Even at a discounted rate.

  17. With or without Conner, Pittsburgh is unable to pick up a 3rd and 1 by running between the tackles, and that is the biggest problem with their offense.

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