RB James Conner - Pittsburgh Steelers
|6-1, 233||Born: 5-5-1995||College: Pittsburgh||Drafted: Round 3, pick 2017|
2019 Week 1 vs NE (10 / 21 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 44 / 0 rec)
After touching the ball on four out of the first five plays of the game, it looked like the Steelers were planning on feeding Conner a healthy workload against the Steelers. Conner did not have any big gains to start the game, but was picking his way through the Patriots defense patiently and taking what was given. After the first five plays of the game, James Conner did not see another touch until the second quarter of the game, when he was stuffed on a third and short, forcing the Steelers to punt the ball. On their fourth possession of the game, Conner received three straight toss plays. On the first, Conner picked up five yards and followed his pulling guard perfectly. The second, was a quick toss to the left from shotgun where Conner caught the ball and picked his way through the center of the Patriots offense. On the third straight toss, which looked identical to the first, linebacker Jamie Collins cut through the Steelers offensive line and tackled Conner for a four yard loss on third down, stalling another Steelers drive. Conner's best run came in the second quarter. He was lined up in the slot and ran a drag route. Conner made the defender miss and was able to take advantage after the catch. Conner looked to be removed from the game early when it was out of hand.
2019 Week 2 vs SEA (11 / 33 / 1 rush, 4 / 3 / 12 / 0 rec)
It looked like early on in the game James Conner was going to be a focal point of the game. The Steelers were using the Seahawks aggressiveness against them as Roethlisberger, and Rudolph, were allowing oncoming rushers to get close and then hit Conner in the flat when they over pursued their angle. James Conner, by both quarterbacks, handled significant punishment when targeted. On a reception in the third quarter Conner didn't catch, he was hit hard immediately after missing the catch and again late in the third quarter before leaving with a knee injury. Conner had multiple runs where he was close to breaking off a bigger run than what he had. Conner's best run of the night came on a run up the middle. It looked like there wasn't any room, but Conner got small and navigated himself through the Steelers line for a 10+ yard run.
2019 Week 3 vs SF (13 / 43 / 0 rush, 5 / 4 / 14 / 0 rec)
There was nothing flashy about Conner's performance against the 49ers, but he was reliable until he wasn't. Throughout the game Conner was showing well. Consistently running through contact, being an outlet for Mason Rudolph with pressure coming and picking his way through traffic with great patience. Conner's best run of the game came on his first run of the third quarter. It was an outside zone run and Conner showed solid explosion and finish the run strong. Unfortunately, with the Steelers winning by three points and trying to grind out the clock, Conner fumbled the football giving the 49ers great field position to score their winning touchdown.
2019 Week 4 vs CIN (10 / 42 / 0 rush, 8 / 8 / 83 / 1 rec)
It isn't always about the big flashy plays. Sometimes it is about letting your playmakers find their footing and allowing them to make plays and not being the reason, those players can't make plays. During most of the game Rudolph had handcuffs on. Passes being throw were all within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Late in the second half the short throws began going for large gains. The pass-rush wasn't getting to Rudolph and simple screen passes being taken for large gains. Rudolph's first touchdown of the game came on a screen pass to James Conner on a spring right. Rudolph was able to hit Conner in traffic and place the ball in a place where he could work after the catch. There wasn't much downfield throwing in this game, but Rudolph did take two deep shots downfield. The first was to Johnny Holton incomplete, but the second was for a touchdown to Diontae Johnson. Johnson was lost in the mix in coverage and Rudolph was able to hit him on a deep post. It wasn't a perfect throw as Rudolph almost overthrew Johnson, but it was just good enough.
2019 Week 5 vs BAL (14 / 55 / 1 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
The rushing totals are a start, but in a game where Conner had multiple big runs and the starting quarterback exited the game, Conner's usage was low. In fact, since becoming the starter in 2018, this is the first time James Conner has not received at least one target and the second time in 17 games he hasn't received at least three targets. To make matters worse, Conner didn't even see a touch until the third possession of the game. When Conner did touch the ball on the third drive, he touched the ball three times for more than five yards each time. Conner did not have a highlight run on the night, but he also did not have a bad run on the night. Conner was consistently pushing the pile, getting small through the hole at the line of scrimmage and showing the patience always get the yards available to him.
2019 Week 6 vs LAC (16 / 41 / 1 rush, 7 / 7 / 78 / 1 rec)
With the exception of a Thomas Davis body slam, there wasn't much slowing down James Conner or the Steelers running backs in Week 6. Conner does not have gamebreaker ability, but his smoothness and patience are always on display, Conner is a reliable receiver out of the backfield, never goes down by arm tackles and is willing to take defenders on one on one to finish runs. Against the Chargers, Conner's abilities were on full display as he touched the ball on nine of the first eleven plays for the Steelers, including a touchdown run. On Conner's first touchdown a simple combination block when Vance McDonald chipped at his first defender, disengaged and took on a second defender at the second level spring Conner for his long touchdown. Conner followed McDonald perfectly through the hole and was untouched on his first score. Conner's second score of the night was a reception out of the backfield. Like most of the night, defenders were bouncing off of Conner or weren't able to get a good grip on him. In the third quarter James Conner was finally hit and he was hit hard. As he was hurdling a defender, Thomas Davis caught Conner in mid-air and slammed him to the ground. Conner immediately left the game and was used sparingly for the remaining time.
2019 Week 11 vs CLE (5 / 10 / 0 rush, 2 / 1 / 6 / 0 rec)
In Week 11, James Conner returned from a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks prior. It was believed Conner was held out of Week 10's matchup to save himself for this game. Conner's night started off almost breaking a long run to the outside when he was taken down by a shoestring tackle. Conner even fell down on a route out of the backfield. He eventually got up and flashed as a checkdown for Mason Rudolph for a short gain. Unfortunately, similar to previous weeks, Conner's night was cut very short. He exited the game with an aggravation of his shoulder injury from two weeks prior.
2018 Week 1 vs CLE (31 / 135 / 2 rush, 6 / 5 / 57 / 0 rec)
Conner drew the first start of his career and did not disappoint. To start the game Conner was used just like Le'Veon Bell would be. Conner was physical between the tackles and was consistently breaking off long gains. Conner's receiving ability was the most impressive, and improved, part of Conner's game. His versatility allowed the Steelers to move him around the formation from running back to split out wide receiver. Having the ability to stay versatile early allowed the Steelers to show different looks in the first half. The biggest blemish on Conner's resume from Week 1 was his fourth-quarter fumble allowing the Browns to get back in the game. With 36 total touches (31 carries and 5 receptions on 6 targets) in one game, the Steelers clearly trust James Conner to be their workhorse while Bell is out.
2018 Week 2 vs KC (8 / 17 / 1 rush, 5 / 5 / 48 / 0 rec)
The "Le'Veon Bell treatment" should now be known as the "Steelers Running Back Treatment". The name on the back of the jersey doesn't matter. If they are in the backfield they will see plenty of usage in the rushing and receiving game (even Ryan Switzer). Conner's best run of the day came after two evaded tackles on a 22-yard gain. He also had an Odell Beckham Jr. like fingertip coming down out of bounds but did draw a defensive pass interference. Most importantly, Conner seemed to have regained his for from the first three quarters of Week 1 as he finished strong and ran over two defenders to score a touchdown to start off the second half for the Steelers. After Conner's rushing touchdown in the third quarter he left the game for a full series and was replaced by Stevan Ridley. Conner was able to return to the game in the fourth quarter.
2018 Week 3 vs TB (15 / 61 / 0 rush, 6 / 5 / 34 / 0 rec)
The running lanes were there. The offensive line was getting good push and each time Conner touched the ball he was showing the ability to get to his spot quickly and turn upfield. With two minutes left in the second quarter Conner had an 18-yard reception keeping the Steelers scoring drive alive. In a close game in the fourth quarter and down three the Steelers trusted Conner to be their closer in the waning minutes. Conner had runs of 27 and 9 yards in the fourth quarter and totaled 48 yards rushing in the second half.
2018 Week 4 vs BAL (9 / 19 / 0 rush, 7 / 3 / 25 / 0 rec)
Conner was stacked up at the line repeatedly by the Ravens and the game script never allowed the Steelers to be patient with the running game. His value is solely based on his receptions right now, and that should be temporary with LeVeon Bell reportedly coming back soon.
2018 Week 5 vs ATL (21 / 110 / 2 rush, 4 / 4 / 75 / 0 rec)
FINALLY, James Conner's full tool kit was being utilized for the first time since Week 1. Conner came out on the first possession of the game for the Steelers touching the ball six out of seven times (five rushes and one reception) and totaled 72 yards and a touchdown. This was on the first possession alone. James Conner was showing patience between the tackles, an ability to get to the outside Le'Veon Bell may not even still possess, broke tackles consistently (12 broken tackles), and the ability to not only absorb contact to stay on his feet but also deliver blows to defenders. From the late third quarter on James Conner was getting easier runs due to his punishing style wearing down the Falcons in the first half. Like Week 1 late in the second half James Conner fumbled the ball at a crucial point in the game. Fortunately, this time Conner did not lose the fumble and the ball went out of bounds.
2018 Week 6 vs CIN (19 / 111 / 2 rush, 7 / 4 / 18 / 0 rec)
It should be noted Conner's offensive line is great and they are getting used to Conner's running style. The Steelers offensive line is moving more towards a power running approach and Conner has responded well over the last two weeks. Overall, today could have either been an explosion day or Conner or he could have been an okay game. Luckily James Conner was still productive even with opportunities left on the field. Conner's best run of the day came on an outside play to the corner store where he was ruled down at the one-yard line. There will still be a lot of people clambering for Le'Veon Bell and saying Bell would be doing so much better for the Steelers. Bell does not possess the same toolkit James Conner has. Conner has more explosion and more contact fidelity than Bell. This offense would look very different if Le'Veon Bell were inserted back in the lineup.
2018 Week 8 vs CLE (24 / 146 / 2 rush, 6 / 5 / 66 / 0 rec)
You wouldn't be able to tell by the stat line, but Conner started Week 8 slowly. Over the first four drives for the Steelers Conner only had four touches for seven yards and a near fumble. James Conner also just missed a reception out of the backfield that was a little high, but a pass Conner has made this season regularly. On the fifth drive the Steelers were finally able to get Conner going. On the fifth drive alone, Conner had 8 touches for 38 yards. This was James Conner's most complete performance of the season. Conner was using a spin move which allowed him to break multiple tackles and gain extra yardage. Late in the game, the Steelers were using Conner in the middle of the field in the screen game. This allowed the pass-rush of Cleveland to run past the play and Conner was left alone to gain regular yards after the catch. In the fourth quarter, and the last drive for the Steelers of the game, James Conner had five touches for over 30 yards. During this drive it looked like James Conner was being pulled off the field for a breather when he was re-inserted into the game and broke off a 22-yard touchdown. James Conner has taken control of this position in Pittsburgh even if Le'Veon Bell were to return to the team.
2018 Week 9 vs BAL (24 / 107 / 0 rush, 9 / 7 / 56 / 1 rec)
Good running backs have a deep tool kit and can vary their game depending on their opponent. In Week 9 against the Ravens Conner dipped into his bag of tricks for more of a žgrind it outÓ game rather than his big runs from previous weeks. Every touch by Conner there was either a big hit being delivered, or a big hit being delivered. Conner's touchdown came in the first quarter when he received a swing pass out of the backfield and he ran through a defender on his way to the endzone. Conner did have one bad run on the Steelers' final drive of the game. He was running to the left side of the field and had a clear lane to cut up field for positive yards. Instead, Conner kept running horizontally and ran straight into a defender. In the fourth quarter, Conner, as we've seen before in close games, changed his running style. He stopped trying to spin for more yards and was taking only what was given. Whether it is coaching or something in Conner, he is making a concerted effort to protect the football late in games.
2018 Week 10 vs CAR (13 / 65 / 1 rush, 1 / 1 / 8 / 0 rec)
This game had a shootout written all over it and, unfortunately for Conner, the passing game was efficient and successful working down the field. Even in a statistically down game for Conner, things did not start slow. Conner saw his highest involvement in the second series of the game. On this series Conner picked up a first down by picking his way through the middle of his offensive line by getting small and delivering a strong run. Conner also, on the same series, made a crucial catch to keep the offense rolling after Ben Roethlisberger dropped the snap. Finishing the drive, for a touchdown, Conner displayed his power when having the ability to get up to full speed. Things were scary late in the game as Conner was knocked out with a concussion. Fortunately, Conner was able to come back into the game to only leave again and be taken to the locker room. Being able to come back into the game shows Conner will likely be cleared and shouldn't miss the Steelers' next game.
2018 Week 11 vs JAX (9 / 25 / 0 rush, 9 / 6 / 24 / 0 rec)
Going beyond the box score is important when reviewing Conner's performance on the week. His best run of the game came after drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty for a late hit from a Jaguars defender. The conversation almost turned very negative in this game for James Conner. As the Steelers were driving on their last possession of the game, Conner dropped an easy reception on a wheel route out of the backfield which would have likely gone for touchdown. Conner simply took his eyes off the ball and dropped it. If Roethlisberger would not have scored at the end of this possession the Steelers, and fans, would have likely been asking would Le'Veon Bell have caught that and won us the game? Fortunately for Conner, Roethlisberger finished the drive and Conner doesn't have to face those questions.
2018 Week 12 vs DEN (13 / 53 / 0 rush, 4 / 4 / 42 / 0 rec)
Conner was relatively unused throughout the entire first half. Five total rush attempts in the first quarter and two in the second. During periods of the second half Conner started breaking long plays both in the running and receiving game. In fact, Conner had 4 rushes for 23-yards in the third quarter. When Conner finally looked to be taking over the game, he caught a ball from Roethlisberger on a wheel route and took the ball 23-yards before having the ball punched out by a Denver Broncos defender. This lead to a Broncos touchdown and Conner did not see another touch until there was under two minutes left in the game and the ball was on the three yard line. Similar to previous Steelers losses this season, they almost completed ignored the running game. In Steelers wins/tie, the team has rushed the ball almost 30 times per game. In losses, the Steelers have rushed the ball under 15 times per game.
2018 Week 13 vs LAC (15 / 60 / 2 rush, 4 / 3 / 14 / 0 rec)
On the National television stage, and with huge running lanes available, Conner was not able to get into a rhythm. Conner benefited from two first quarter trips to the 1-yard line where he converted two of his three goal line opportunities into touchdowns. Conner's highlight run showed his two best traits, reading his blockers and strong burst through the line of scrimmage. On Conner's final run of the night he twisted his ankle and was taken back to the locker room. The severity of his injury will at least keep him out for Week 14.
2018 Week 17 vs CIN (14 / 64 / 0 rush, 3 / 3 / 30 / 0 rec)
Welcome back James Conner. The offense was still productive while you were gone, but you displayed exactly why you were so important to the offense in Week 17. Conner ran hard through the middle of the offensive line setting up his blocking well and slashing through with good burst. Conner's best run of the game came from the shotgun. He allowed his blockers to set up on the left side of the line. Conner easily shed an arm tackle at the line of scrimmage and carried the ball for 22-yards. Overall, Conner was involved in the game (17 total touches), but the Steelers were allowing Conner to get frequent breathers and were involving Jaylen Samuels much more in the receiving game.
2017 Week 1 vs CLE (4 / 11 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
James Conner entered the game during the Steelers 3rd offensive possession but did not make an impact with his first two rushes. Late 3rd quarter, Conner was in to start his second series of the game by running up the middle for a 5-yard gain. He didn't have any success the rest of that possession.
2017 Week 4 vs BAL (4 / 26 / 0 rush, 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 rec)
James Conner was the change of play option only used when LeVeon Bell needed a rest. He registered the Steelers longest rush of the afternoon, a 23-yard sweep around the left side of the offensive line. On the play, Conner followed his blockers, who opened a massive hole, for the large gain.