On Sunday night James Conner took his first hand off and ran up the middle for a short gain. He had done it hundreds of times before on the north shore. This time it was different, though. The loudest cheer you’d ever hear for a three-yard gain bellowed through Heinz Field. This time he was a Pittburgh Steeler.
“It was awesome,” Conner said. “I felt right at home. My nerves were calm coming into the game. I was, like, ‘Man, I’ve been doing this for so long here.’ It was so comfortable”
Everyone knows Conner’s story by now. Beat cancer, hardworker, great teammate, and just an all around good person. That makes it easy to know why the people of Pittsburgh are rooting so hard for this kid. Even though he’s from Erie it’s as if he’s been the hometown kid all along.
Conner rushed for 98 yards on 20 carries and may have scored his first touchdown if it wasn’t for a false start penalty at the goal line. He had a 19 yard run and plowed his way through to gain the tough yards on others. A quick glance of the stat sheet only told half of the story,though.
On third down and four with under two-minutes to go in the second quarter, Joshua Dobbs tried to connect with Conner on what would have been a first down inside the Falcons 30, but he dropped the pass. The next drive again ended with a Conner dropped pass. Later in the third quarter Conner was unable to haul in a another wide open pass from Dobbs.
“I’m definitely going to get on those JUGS machines after practice and make sure my hands are ready for the next game,” Conner said.”
Conner sat on the bench in disgust after the second drop.
“Everybody makes mistakes,” Ramon Foster recalled telling the rookie on the bench.”You can’t let that play make you keep your helmet on on the bench. Be the same all the time. You don’t need to hide your face.’ ”
With LeV’eon Bell deciding to take another week to train in Miami, it will allow more reps for Conner heading into the third preseason game. Continued improvement heading forward is all that Coach Tomlin can ask for from the rookie.