The Pittsburgh Steelers are presently blessed with numerous talented players that are both young and hungry. Hungry for success on the field, and everything which accompanies it. Success equates recognition, and along with it, financial rewards. Money can be a great motivator.
If you want to see what that type of motivation looks like, look no further than Steelers RB James Conner. Pictures of a jacked up Conner are posted all around social media. It is truly an impressive transformation from the former Pittsburgh Panthers standout. He looks quite different than when he entered the NFL.
Conner has always been a determined athlete; displaying discipline, focus, and an ever present work ethic. He has overcome every obstacle standing in his way, even cancer, to make his NFL dreams a reality, but something seems to have amplified his resolve to an even greater level lately. I believe the answer to be two-fold.
The desire to prove the naysayers wrong would be one. Those individuals, to which I admittedly am guilty, who love him as a player and person but doubt his ability to stay health and productive on the field.
Conner's troubling history of nagging injuries has had nothing to do with a lack of conditioning or desire. If anything, the opposite is true. Conner runs like a man possessed. He is a hard-nosed, determined back committed to running through contact for the extra yard. He willingly sacrifices his well-being for the betterment of the team.
Last season Conner was beset with hurdles and obstacles right from the start of the season. After Big Ben was lost to injury, the passing game suffered greatly. Without the benefit of the fear factor associated with the big play vertical game, Conner and his fellow running backs were consistently facing stacked boxes. Talk about running into a brick wall. Conner tried to persevere, run a little harder even, and give it his all. This only lead to the inevitable aches and pains. Conner displayed the necessary toughness to play through the pain, but his performance suffered.
Conner has never needed extra coaching or incentive to play or work harder. He already possesses that personal work ethic. Driven players like Conner are always looking for an edge— the proverbial chip on their shoulder if you will. Conner is utilizing the doubters as fuel for the fire.
The second factor fueling Conner's drive to be in supreme condition is the desire for financial and professional stability. Be careful to not confuse the drive for financial well-being with greed. This is a young man who has worked hard for every penny he has earned. He loves the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh. It's his home, and he doesn't plan on going anywhere.
You can tell when a player loves putting on the Steelers uniform— when it is so much more than just a means to an end, more than just their job. This type of passion and commitment to give the team everything you’ve got every time you step on the field is impossible to hide and ignore.
Whether we like it or not, the fact is the NFL is big business and tough decisions will have to be made concerning the length of Conner's career and legacy in Pittsburgh. Conner's admirable conditioning work this offseason displays his willingness to do everything in his power to help make any decisions concerning his future employment with the Pittsburgh Steelers that much easier to make.
Hopefully Conner has a productive and healthy season this year, with more to come. If not, even if the injury bug bites again and things don’t work out exactly as planned, it definitely won't be from a lack of effort. You can count on that.