In the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers used their compensatory pick on University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner.
Almost immediately on social media there were a pocket of black and gold fans who didn’t like the pick. Many of them suggesting the Steelers were looking for a “feel good” story to counteract a lot of the bad publicity they have received in the past few years with suspensions to marquee players like Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant.
I have to be honest, when I saw these comments, I couldn’t disagree more.
Yes, Conner’s story belongs in a Disney movie. Near the pinnacle of his game, suffers a knee injury only to find out he has cancer. Overcomes cancer to return to the field and get drafted by the team he shared a complex with for four years.
It truly is remarkable, but the one thing which fans should realize is how the Steelers know what they are doing when it comes to the draft. Before you start talking about Dri Archer and Jarvis Jones, show me an NFL team who hasn’t had a few blunders in the past several years. Let me know when you come up with something.
In the meantime, understand the Steelers wouldn’t waste a third round pick on a player thought of only as a “feel good” story. There are teams who will draft players in the seventh round, or even an undrafted player, who might be good for the team’s overall image, but not a third round selection.
If you didn’t like the Conner pick due to the position, and who was still remaining on the board, you have a legitimate gripe. But this article, and podcast, was directed towards those who simply thought the Steelers pulled a Philadelphia Eagles.
What do the Eagles have to do with this? I recall when the Eagles signed an Army veteran who served three tours in Afghanistan, as a potential defensive lineman. The player played tight end at West Point, but everyone involved knew it was a long shot he make the team. Good P.R. for the team signing the former veteran.
He gets cut, and gets added to the team across the state of Pennsylvania.
Haven’t figured it out yet? Yes, that player was none other than Alejandro Villanueva, now the starting left tackle of the Steelers. Now, that was a P.R. move by Philadelphia.
The Steelers selecting Conner is the furthest from the same situation. Conner’s production prior to his injury and diagnosis, to the tune of 1,765 yards rushing, 26 TDs and 5.9 yards per carry in 2014 with All-ACC honors, would prove his production more than matches his NFL Draft slot in the third round.
I talk about this, and more, in the above podcast. Give it a listen!
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