Le’veon Bell holding out is perhaps the biggest NFL storyline of the offseason. Now his holdout is starting to cut into games that matter for not only him, but also the Pittsburgh Steelers.
A lot can be said about Le’veon Bell missing Week 1 of the season. It’s happened over and over again in his young career, whether it’s suspension-related, injury or nasty contract negotiations. All of us who follow the NFL in some capacity have heard of the disgruntled star’s on-and-off field issues.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have already stated that they would prefer to keep the embattled running back despite his antics. After today’s game in Cleveland, some might even suggest that the Steelers should take a step back from Le’veon. They seem to have a star in the making.
Enter James Conner. His college resume would suggest that maybe despite drafting him in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft, that somehow, maybe because of all the drama Bell brings with him, that the Steelers have overlooked him. Overlooked his talent, and more importantly his story.
James Conner grew up in Pennsylvania and played at the University of Pittsburgh. His college career was pretty good, despite missing his entire junior season, here are some of his biggest accomplishments during his tenure.
- AFCA 1st team All-American (2014)
- ACC Player of the Year (2014)
- ACC Offensive Player of the Year (2014)
- ACC Brian Piccolo Award (2016)
- First-team All-ACC (2014, 2016)
As many know, Conner was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Dec. 2015. The doctors found the disease during rehab from a torn MCL, with the youngster struggling to breathe normally.
Conner underwent 12 rounds of chemotherapy, all while participating in non-contact drills with the team during the offseason. He also kept in contact with Eric Berry, who also battled Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He went on the Ellen show, giving people hope who also suffered from this terrible disease.
Fast forward to the present. After being a third-round pick in 2017, Conner made his first meaningful start on Sunday and rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns, along with five receptions for an additional 57 yards. It’s safe to say Pittsburgh doesn’t need Bell and his high price tag if Conner continues to produce at this rate.
Of course, Conner still has a long way to go before proving he’s in the same category as Bell. Bell, 26, has been named to three Pro Bowls and a trio of All-Pro teams. It’s long odds that Conner becomes his predecessor. Then again, Conner has been unfazed by ugly odds before, in far more concerning situations.