Dec 27, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs with the ball as Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard (53) defends during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 28-24.Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals agree to one-year deal with RB James Conner

The Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms with former Steelers running back James Conner on a one-year deal, the team announced Tuesday.

Conner, who turns 26 next month, visited the Cardinals on Monday. Financial terms were not announced.

A Pennsylvania native, Conner played collegiately at Pitt and was the Steelers’ third-round draft pick in 2017. When the disgruntled Le’Veon Bell sat out the season in 2018, Conner became the team’s featured back.

He gained 973 yards rushing, added 497 receiving yards and scored 13 touchdowns that season, earning Pro Bowl honors.

Injuries to his quadriceps and shoulder limited him to 10 games and only 715 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns in 2019. And last season, he ran 169 times for 721 yards and added 35 catches for 215 yards with six total touchdowns.

The Steelers’ tight salary cap situation undoubtedly contributed to them not extending re-signing Conner after the expiration of his rookie deal.

In Arizona, he’ll help to fill the void left by Kenyan Drake, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders as a free agent.

–Field Level Media

Nov 1, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) runs with the ball during a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Layton-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers activate RB Conner from reserve/COVID-19 list

The Pittsburgh Steelers activated running back James Conner from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday.

Placed on the list on Nov. 28, Conner missed Pittsburgh’s last two games against Baltimore and Washington, respectively.

Connor, 25, leads the Steelers with 645 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He also has 25 catches for 145 yards.

The Steelers (11-1) made two other announcements ahead of Sunday night’s showdown against the Buffalo Bills (9-3) in Orchard Park, N.Y.

They signed defensive end Cassius Marsh from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad and said linebacker Ulysees Gilbert will practice Wednesday but remain on the reserve/injured list.

Marsh, 28, has tallied 173 tackles, 14 sacks and five forced fumbles in 91 games with the Seahawks, Patriots, 49ers, Cardinals, Jaguars and Colts since entering the NFL in 2014.

Gilbert, 23, was Pittsburgh’s sixth-round pick in 2019 and has six tackles in nine career games.

–Field Level Media

Nov 22, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton (52) and defensive end Dawuane Smoot (94) combine to bring down Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (30) during the second quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Steelers RB Conner, assistant coach test positive for virus

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner and an unidentified assistant coach have tested positive for COVID-19, NFL Network reported on Saturday.

Per the report, Conner is awaiting a second test on Sunday to confirm the results. He is a cancer survivor — a group that the medical community has said could be at increased risk for complications from the virus.

The report comes on the heels of the Steelers placing defensive end Stephon Tuitt, defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs and offensive lineman Jerald Hawkins on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday.

It also comes after the NFL moved the initially scheduled game between the Steelers (10-0) and the visiting Baltimore Ravens (6-4) from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon to now Tuesday night. NBC will televise the game, set for 8 p.m. ET.

The moves have been necessitated because of an outbreak of COVID-19 among the Ravens.

If this game occurs as now planned on Tuesday, the NFL will move the Ravens’ Week 13 game as well.

“Should the game be played on Tuesday, the Week 13 Dallas Cowboys at Baltimore Ravens game, originally scheduled for Thursday, December 3, will be moved to Monday, December 7, at 5:00 p.m. ET and will be broadcast nationally on FOX/NFL Network/Amazon,” the league said in a statement.

“These decisions were made out of an abundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of players, coaches and game day personnel and in consultation with medical experts.”

The Steelers remain set to host the Washington Football Team in Week 13 on Dec. 6.

The Steelers earlier saw their game against the Tennessee Titans rescheduled because of an outbreak affecting the Tennessee team. That moved forced the Steelers to have a Week 4 bye and gave them games in 13 straight weeks to end the season. Pittsburgh hoped to play on Thanksgiving to have the weekend off.

Conner, 25, leads the Steelers in carries (145), rushing yards (645) and rushing touchdowns (five). He also has 25 catches for 145 yards.

–Field Level Media

Life for the Pittsburgh Panthers…without James Conner

Going into this season, I was really looking forward to watch the running back for the Pittsburgh Panthers, James Conner. Conner was on his way to what looked like a great season against Youngstown State. To my surprise, the worst happened. In the middle of the game, he went down with a knee injury. At first, reports stated it “wasn’t serious”, until it was examined further, and Conner heard the two words no athlete wants to hear, “MCL tear”. So what is next for the Panthers as they have to handle life without Conner?
It will not be easy for Pitt to replace the former ACC Player of the Year. That kind of production is hard to duplicate. However, I feel Pitt should still be okay. The Panthers are a very run-oriented offense, which showed in the 2014 season when Conner ran for 1,765 yards (5.9 YPC) and 26 rushing touchdowns. I expect them to continue running the ball because they have sufficient replacements.
First, there is freshman RB Qadree Ollison. Ollison had a very impressive debut in his first ever football game last week, rushing for over 200 yards and a score. It helps that Ollison has a similar body type to Conner, standing at 6’2”, 231 lbs. He also plays with the same style of play Conner does; a bruising, downhill runner that you don’t want to tackle unless you absolutely have to. On the lighter side, they have someone to help split carries, Chris James. James is a little bit of a smaller back that will have some needed quickness to add to the Pittsburgh running game.
The passing game for the offense will still be sketchy as usual. The Panthers are still unsure about which QB to start, either freshman Nathan Peterman or junior Chad Voytik. Both QBs had mediocre play against Youngstown State last week. Both threw their fair share of good and bad passes, so there is still a lot of uncertainty. One thing remains certain, and that is they have a future NFL receiver in their midst. Barring any unforeseen circumstance the Panthers will have their WR Tyler Boyd for the rest of the season. My preseason expectations for the Panthers haven’t changed because their run game still has talented backs, and they still have good targets in the pass game.
From a scouts’ perspective, I do hate that Conner got injured. I considered Conner one of the best bruiser backs who could possibly have declared for the draft this season. He also would likely have been surrounded with many other great running backs that are draft eligible this season. Conner’s brutal, physical game is nearly impossible to stop. I now am looking forward to Conner’s senior season at Pittsburgh, and I expect him to come back even stronger (after all, most beasts do).
Austin Morris is the creator of The Scouting Lab. He is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp. He can be reached atamorris3585@scc.stanly.edu