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Steelers' James Conner Still Using Adversity to Illustrate Comeback Story

Five years later, Steelers running back James Conner continues to inspire people through his fight against cancer.

James Conner's spotlight started when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma during his junior year at Pitt.

Since then, he's been under a microscope for a player who once thought he had a week to live. The media and the team have pressed the "comeback story" of Conner throughout his career, but the Steelers running back says he does the same for himself.

Speaking with's Nick Shook, Conner discussed bringing his book Fear is a Choice to life to shine a light on overcoming obstacles.

"I had a football coach who told me, 'Use adversity to do something great.' ... There's so many different forms of it. Mine just happened to be cancer," Conner said. "I used that opportunity to tell myself it was going to be a comeback story and I was going to do it. So I just wanted to inspire people and let them know there's a way to be better from adversity."

Conner discussed making sure he published his book while still in the NFL. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract but told Shook he can't undermine how often careers are cut short.

"In this league, there's no telling," he said.

Conner has overcome more than most to find himself as the starting running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The third-round pick was once considered one of the best college runners in the nation.

After collegiate injuries and beating cancer, Conner fell to Pittsburgh only to sit behind Le'Veon Bell for a season.

"It taught me that I'm not in control of this," Conner said on overcoming his fight with cancer. "I thought I was gonna be a first-rounder (if) I have a big year in 2016, but now it's like, 'OK, no,' and you deal with this, and you go in the third round. Over time, it showed that I'm supposed to be there for a reason, you know, the way things panned out. Now I'm with the Steelers, and now I'm starting, and it's kind of like somebody else is in control of my life, and I feel like that's God. That definitely taught me patience. ... You just have to put your head down and keep working, but also wait your turn."

Today, he never takes his passion for granted. Conner continues to post social media pictures and videos of him working out with teammates and NFL players across the country.

Heading into the 2020 season, Conner has a Pro Bowl appearance under his belt but needs to impress before the Steelers plan to hand him a new contract.

"The game was almost taken from me early," Conner said, "and I know what I went through was really dramatic, so now I know ... I don't want injuries to happen, but I enjoy the highs, but also I appreciate the tough times, too, because without the tough times, you can't really enjoy the things like you want to.

"So now I know I'm poised for a good 2020 year after 2019 was filled with a couple injuries. I'm just looking forward to getting back out there and getting this redemption."

Noah Strackbein is a Senior Writer with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.