One of the better feel-good stories in Pittsburgh sports is coming to a close. Per ESPN‘s Brooke Pryor, the inevitable hypothetical is becoming a reality; the Pittsburgh Steelers are unlikely to re-sign James Conner.
In an article from March 2nd, Pryor gives an overview of the Steelers’ free agency situation and explicitly states it:
If true (which, let’s face it, it probably is), my hometown heart will hurt a little. I love the guy. I root for the guy. And I’ll continue to root for him wherever he goes, because he’s just that easy to love. But with the business of the NFL being the way it is, money talks louder than just about anything else – louder than cities and fans and the team colors that they grew up in. And, in a twist that shocked no one, the Steelers don’t have much of it. In fact, they’re going to be in a mad scramble just to become cap-compliant before March 17th.
Conner, who struggled with injuries throughout his tenure in Pittsburgh, did show flashes of possibility and promise. He totaled almost 1,000 rushing yards in the 2018 playing only 13 games, and reached the end zone 12 times. All in his first year as the team’s official starting running back. He might not receive a bank-breaking deal, but he’ll easily find a team who can pay him more than the Steelers could – and will be more than willing to do so.
The run game needs a major overhaul and should be the primary focus in the 2021 NFL Draft and free agency, starting with the offensive line. But the team no doubt will be able to find a running back to add to the room.
It always hurts to say goodbye to a beloved player. But it’s far better than a bitter goodbye. And I consider whichever team he lands on a lucky one indeed.
It’s already written
— James Conner (@JamesConner_) March 1, 2021