James Conner is entering the final season of his rookie contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and thus could be coming to an end of his time playing in the city.
Conner spent four years at Pitt from 2013-16 and then was drafted by the Steelers in 2017 to start his pro career.
It’s likely that the Steelers will at least attempt to re-sign or extend Conner, but after drafting running backs in three consecutive drafts after him, they’re well stocked with Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland Jr. should Conner depart.
That makes the idea of Conner suiting up in a different home stadium for the first time since he played in high school a real possibility. But it’s not one that he’s focused on right now.
“It would be hard to put another helmet on just because of everything and what this city means to me,” Conner said on Adam Schefter’s podcast.
“I played my college ball in the city, got my life saved in it, became healthy. The city I got drafted to. I want to be able to say the city I brought a championship to. It would be really hard. I’m Pittsburgh through and through. But like I said, I’m big on my faith, so I’m always going to end up doing what I’m supposed to do and being where I’m supposed to be at with the Lord’s guidance and direction.”
Conner also said that his upcoming contract decision doesn’t put any additional pressure on him to perform this season.
“Every time I go out there and play, ever year, I just look forward to that opportunity,” he said. “You have to perform. At the end of the day, that’s all it’s all about. I have to perform every day that I’m there, whether it be a contract year, my second year, third year, at the end of the day, you have to perform. I want to perform more. I’ve had some injury things. But I truly believe that when I put a full season together, it’s something special. I’m concerned about it being my contract year.”
Conner played in 10 games and had just 116 carries in 2019 after missing some time with knee, shoulder and thigh injuries. He’s back to full health now, and working out with another Steelers player that missed time with injury in 2019: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“We’ve been at his place and throwing around. He’s looking good,” Conner said. “I don’t have no doubts, personally. I know his work ethic and his mindset and what he’s capable of and what he wants to do. That’s win and win it all.”