One of the breakout stars of the 2021 NFL season has been former Steelers running back James Conner who has exploded for 16 total touchdowns through 15 weeks of game action. This stat tally has given Conner his second career Pro Bowl selection, and earned him another contract in the NFL moving into next season. If you were to just look back at the stats you might question the Steelers decision to let the Pittsburgh native leave for only $1.75 million, but in reality both parties are better for the separation.
God answers prayers, be back quicker than you think.. Grateful pic.twitter.com/ASojYKt2jQ— JC (@JamesConner_) December 23, 2021
Looking back on the 2021 offseason, one thing was very obvious for draft nuts. The Pittsburgh Steelers were going to draft Alabama running back Najee Harris. And for good reason, as the Steelers had the NFL’s 32nd ranked rushing attack and needed a major face lift. The Steelers opted to fix the running back spot before fixing the offensive line, which will be a criticized until the Steelers field another good line. As for Conner, he was coming off of yet another injury plagued season in which he missed 3 games and 5 starts. The Steelers needed to do something different and paying a starting running back that has never made it through an entire season healthy was just not something they could afford. And really no either team did as well, as Conner wasn't signed to his contract until April 13, 2021.
NAJEE HARRIS GETS HIS FIRST NFL TOUCHDOWN pic.twitter.com/edZXy5glcU— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) September 19, 2021
Fast forward to this season and the Steelers makeshift offensive line is failing to open any rushing lanes, but still Najee Harris is putting up yardage. Ben Roethlisberger has called the rookie perhaps the greatest running back he's ever played with, and Roethlisberger played with Jerome Bettis, Le’Veon Bell, Willie Parker, and many others. I really don't think Conner would have the same success he is having in Arizona than he would have had he stayed to be the Steelers’ feature back.
James Conner is (+300) to lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns pic.twitter.com/tAsAvQ6bof— PFF Bet (@PFF_Bet) December 16, 2021
Both James Conner and the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a better position at their spots without one another this year. Conner has earned himself a longer term deal and more money while the Steelers rookie back has a lot of promise and needs to be supported. If the Steelers can find themselves some mauling offensive lineman, I wouldn't be surprised if Harris’ rushing totals exploded to the top of the league heading into the future. So don't be sad that James Conner is having a great year in Arizona. Celebrate with him as his gamble played off and your favorite team is still having success without him.
But what do you think? Do you agree or do you think the Steelers made a mistake in letting James Conner go? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.