James Conner joined ESPN's Adam Schefter on a podcast this week. Schefter asked the 25-year-old running back about this possibly being his swan song in Pittsburgh. “It would be hard to put another helmet on," said Conner, "because of what the city means to me.”
Well, James, I'm afraid I've got some bad news.
Conner has played in just 23 of 32 games since taking over for Le'Veon Bell as the Steelers starting running back. If he proves that he can't stay healthy again in 2020, there will be no reason to bring him back in 2021.
If Conner plays as well as he can prove to be durable, well, the Steelers won’t be able to afford his contract.
The Steelers will have decisions to make on Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster at the end of the year. T.J Watt is likely going to get an expensive long term deal this offseason. Ben Roethlisberger will count 40 million dollars against the salary cap in 2021.
Giving a running back a lot of money in free agency doesn't always prove to be a smart move, no matter how good the player was on his rookie contract. Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and David Johnson provide the cautionary tale.
I think it’s hard to imagine a situation where Conner will be a Steeler in 2021 no matter his statistical output this season.