James Conner Isn't Ready to Shut His Season Down

Noah Strackbein

PITTSBURGH -- James Conner continues to rehab a shoulder injury that has left him out of the Steelers' last three games. The running back has missed five games this season with an AC Joint injury. As Pittsburgh continues to keep their season alive, Conner is working to return to the team prior to the postseason, but isn't sure how long he'll be sidelined.

One thing Conner did assure is that he isn't ready to shut himself down for the season. When asked if he had a plan as to when he would stop trying to get back onto the field this season, he applied with a quick, "no." 

"I'm literally just taking it honestly day-by-day," Conner said. "However long that may be, I'm not gonna count it out until we know for sure."

Conner made an attempted return in Week 11 against the Browns. After missing Week 9 with the initial injury, the Steelers started Conner in the backfield in Cleveland. 

He only lasted five rushes before leaving the game in the first half. Conner says returning after missing only one game was too quick, but it wasn't a mistake. Simply something he couldn't push through once on the field. 

"I wouldn't say mistake. I tried to go and I couldn't so," Conner said.

In his absence, Benny Snell Jr., Jaylen Samuels and Kerrith Whyte have taken over the Steelers backfield. Snell, being the primary back, has rushed for 161 yards and a touchdown over the last two weeks. 

Overall, Conner says he's a fan of what Pittsburgh's backfield depth has done during his time on the sideline. The collective effort has kept the Steelers on top for back-to-back games and has gained momentum since Cleveland.

"[I'm] proud of them," Conner said. "They're doing great, all of them; K. Wright, Jaylen [Samuels], Trey [Edmunds] when he's in there. It's been a group effort and it's been cool to see."

Benny Snell has credited Conner for helping him prepare during his recovery process. The rookie has leaned on his veteran teammate throughout the season and it's beginning to pay off for the Steelers. According to Conner, though, Snell is doing most of the work himself. 

"He prepares himself well. My job is to be there for anything he needs, any questions he has," Conner said. "Kind of just watching him, guiding him, but he's been great. I think he was just giving us a little more credit than we deserve because he's been putting a lot of work in himself."

While Snell has held the backfield to a high standard in Conner's absence, the running back says he's still pushing just as hard to get onto the field. Even with the rookie and Samuels playing well, Conner knows his role in the offense is significant enough to push for a comeback.

"We all have different roles right now," Conner said. "Benny's role is to play hard, continue to run the ball hard and my role is to get healthy. We're at different stages right now."