Colbert Wants To See If New Steelers RB James Conner Can Help On Special Teams

The Pittsburgh Steelers selection of running back James Conner in the 2017 NFL Draft probably didn’t shock very many people outside of the fact he was picked in the third-round. Now that he’s in the Steelers’ fold as a third-round draft pick, its virtually guaranteed the Pittsburgh product will make the 2017 final 53-man roster barring something totally unforeseen.

While Conner certainly has the ability to ultimately be the Steelers backup to starting running back Le’Veon Bell at some point in the near future, general manager Kevin Colbert indicated after this year’s draft was over that he’s interested to see what else his newest ball carrier can do to potentially help the team.

“Not a lot needs to be said about James Conner that everyone isn’t aware of,” Colbert started after the draft concluded. “But from a football standpoint, the thing that really attracted us about James was not only his ability as a runner but as any runner will have to do, in our situation, obviously with Le’Veon, they will have to contribute on special teams.

“I’m sure you are all aware that James used to do spot rushing, some spot pass rushing next door at Pitt. We aren’t saying he is going to be a pass rusher, but his demeanor when he does that, I’m just as anxious to see him cover a kick as I am to see him carry a football. He just has that demeanor, again, the character and the football character beyond compare.”

As Colbert pointed out, Conner was used very sparingly (reportedly 3 snaps) by Pittsburgh as a pass-rusher in 2016. In fact, as you can see in the clip below, he looked quite good doing it. Additionally, it’s worth noting that according to his college bio, that Conner was a highly productive runner and pass rusher at McDowell High School, earning accolades for both roles. He was selected All-State Class AAAA by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers as a senior running back and also named Pennsylvania Football News All-Class AAAA at running back his senior year and as a defensive lineman his junior year. He even set school records for sacks in a season (12) and career (17) at McDowell.

If that’s not enough, Pittsburgh’s running backs coach and special teams coordinator Andre Powell reportedly said ahead of the 2016 season that Conner approached him and asked to return kickoffs for the team.

“We want guys that want to do it,” Powell said at the time, according to Jerry DiPaola of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He won’t be the guy who is back there every time returning kicks, but he’ll be a backup. I wouldn’t hesitate to put him into the game.”

Despite his wiliness to do so, Conner ultimately never returned any kickoffs at Pittsburgh.

Conner, as if you needed me to tell you, is an all-effort player and willing to do anything to help a team. Not only will be it interesting to see how his NFL career turns out when it comes to him playing the running back position, it will also be interesting to see if he winds up being part of a Steelers special teams unit or two in 2017.

  • Steelers12

    Wow, ok lets see what he got at the next level

  • Brandon Stokely

    demeanor, not domineer?

  • blackandgoldBullion

    If circumstances change he might bulk up 15 pounds and play OLB.

  • Ray

    yea I am actually curious which one its supposed to be. I want to hear the quote now haha

  • Steelers12

    at least he can play there if emergency comes up

  • Jaybird

    Ok let’s just stop with the DE , spin move, and pressure the QB stuff.

  • Jaybird

    Sure, bulk up so much that you are no longer quick or agile enough to be an affective Running back , the position we drafted you in the third round to be.
    But at least we could have a fifth string OLB!
    I’m just busting chops b&g bullion.

  • Jaybird

    Demeanor- it was used correctly in the sentence.

  • LucasY59

    I saw the clip of him rushing the passer the other day and thought it was funny

    I like Conner, and him being willing to try and help the team in any way they ask him, makes me like him even more (but Im pretty sure Watt is going to be the guy chasing QBs for the Steelers not Conner)

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    With the way Tomlin plays his backup RBs he could end up getting more snaps on defense this year.

  • francesco

    If he can contribute by frying some eggs and bacon on the side for the guys then henter is a valuable asset going forward.

  • Michael Conrad

    Maybe he could coach the defense. Install a game plan for New England and scout the draft for next year. Let him find a punter we could draft in the first round.

    Just kidding I like Conner don’t want to see him hurt gong down under kickoffs . Let him run the ball.

  • Lee Foo Young

    Because RBs never get hurt, right? 🙂

  • Lee Foo Young

    Conner may replace Shazier as the Steeler that fans most want to switch positions?


  • Jaybird

    If it ever got that bad , where we lost three or four LBS in a game , I think I’d rather give Rosie Nix a few snaps.

  • dany

    Can he kick return? Might push Knile off the roster, and keeps himself active throughout the game cause you know Bell will still be getting at least 20 carries without stopping

  • Steel City Slim


  • Taylor Williams

    That’s why I think the pick is useless. Connor himself is fine, but the Steelers will barely run him 2-3 carries a game.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    Let’s see if he can back up ilb spot I’m desperate I’m willing to try anything

  • The Sun is Pro-Black

    I hope Tomlin reads these comments

  • Steelsmoke

    Hopefully he can close games out and keep juice fresh

  • stan

    As soon as I saw his work at de I figured special teams might have pushed him up our board

  • Jacob

    Have you seen this kid’s tape the year before he was injured and got cancer? He was outrunning DB’s to the end zone.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Funny thing is, I was literally telling my buddy yesterday that I expect him to become the personal protector on punt team. I think he’ll be an outstanding special teamer. Lord knows we could stand to upgrade that phase of the team…

  • Norton

    Not sure what the criticism is about. He seems to have good balance, decent acceleration (though no ‘extra’ gear) and won’t go down with arm tackles. He uses the stiff-arm pretty well too. Hopefully he’s a good judge of where he’s at health wise, and will be able to contribute.

    There are highlights of him running through multiple dbs wearing both 40 and 24, and keeping his feet. He may not be Earl Campbell, but he doesn’t have to be. Just better than 4 or 5 of the RBs that don’t wear #26:

    Brandon Brown-Dukes, Knile Davis, Rushel Shell, Fitz Toussaint, Dreamius Smith, Gus Johnson.

    For a team that drafted a WR?/RB?/KR? who went down if you looked at him funny in a similar slot a few years ago, Conner seems like 180 degrees from that.

  • CP72

    It was better than any Jarvis Jones spin move I have seen.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Anything, just so long as he never has to come into a game as an emergency long snapper.

  • ciscoNoDrink

    Based on that pass rush video he is the best pass rusher in our locker room.

  • Conserv_58

    Really. Is there a more complete football player in this draft class than James Conner is?

    Everything about him, as a person and as a player is off the charts. IMO, Based on his 2014 season production alone, if Conner didn’t injure his knee in 2015 and then be diagnosed with cancer, he would have been a top five pick. I’m mean, talk about checking off all of the boxes, they had to create a special catagory of boxes just for him. One box in particular would be labeled, “Inspires others to achieve beyond what they thought was possible”. He is the kind of young man coach’s dream about having on their team. What’s even more exciting about Conner being a Steeler is the fact that many of the players already know him and were inspired by his story. Having him on the team will pay dividends beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

    When I think about him teaming up with the team’s other high character players such as, T.J. Watt, Tyler Matakevich, Pouncey, AB, etc. and then to have this season dedicated to the memory of, Dan Rooney… training camp is going to be uber intense and exciting to watch.

  • Conserv_58

    His running ability alone earned him his spot on the team.

  • Conserv_58

    There is no doubt that Art Rooney II, Colbert and Tomlin placed an emphasis on drafting highly productive players with high character traits this year.

  • Conserv_58

    Perfect response.

  • Conserv_58

    I’m not so sure about that.

    Seeing Le’Veon go down in the playoffs with a groin injury was a very sobering sight. Who did they have behind him that they could trust? No one other than, D. Will and he was injured. They went into the draft with the goal of getting a productive RB to spell Bell. The days of Le’Veon carrying the ball thirty times a game are over. James Conner will get more touches than previous back ups because he’s that good.