Steelers GM hopeful James Conner can get back on track after disappointing, injury-plagued 2019
The Steelers running back is looking to turn things around in 2020
James Conner had a season to forget in 2019. The Steelers running back suffered a number of injuries throughout the year that forced him to miss six of Pittsburgh's contests. Even in some of the games where he was able to suit up, Conner was often limited due to those ailments, which only further hampered what was expected to be a strong campaign. After enjoying a 2018 season where he totaled 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns, Conner rushed for just 464 yards last season. That marked the first time since 1968 where Pittsburgh's leading rusher was under 500 yards.
The frustrations of Conner's injury-riddled season were echoed by Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who spoke with the local Pittsburgh media on Thursday. While there's certainly a need for Conner to get healthy, Colbert was optimistic about his future.
"James Conner had a disappointing season in James Conner's viewpoint and ours, as well," Colbert said, via Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Our point to James was, 'You had an unfortunate year.' The year before that he was one of the best in the league. He's still a young player. We think there's something there. We know there's talent there. We hope James can regain it. And, if he's healthy, there's no reason he shouldn't. We don't want to say we don't have a starting running back because we feel we do."
The 24-year-old first suffered a knee injury in Pittsburgh's Week 2 matchup against the Seahawks and later endured a shoulder injury against the Dolphins on "Monday Night Football" in Week 8 that would plague the back for the rest of the season. He also had a thigh injury late in the year.
"He suffered different injuries at different times," Colbert said. "I don't think that's who James is. I hope we get back to the 2018 James. Where that goes, we'll see. But right now, we're worried about 2020."
Colbert may still view Conner as a starting-caliber running back, but his future in Pittsburgh does look a bit murky when you go beyond the 2020 season. Conner is heading into the final year of his rookie contract and is slated to hit unrestricted free agency in 2021. With that in mind, they may want to look to add a complementary piece in that backfield to pair alongside Jaylen Samuels and Benny Snell Jr., who are both signed beyond next year.
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