Steelers RB James Conner Faces One Major Issue in Hopes for Big Free Agent Contract

James Conner performed admirably in place of Le'Veon Bell, but is he the long-term answer in Pittsburgh?
James Conner performed admirably in place of Le'Veon Bell, but is he the long-term answer in Pittsburgh? / Joe Sargent/Getty Images

When Le'Veon Bell held out in 2018, the Pittsburgh Steelers turned to James Conner to pick up the slack, and he didn't disappoint, rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns (plus 497 yards receiving). They awarded him the starting job in 2019, but things didn't go as well the second time around as injuries slowed Conner down.

Now the 25-year old running back is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2021, and although Conner certainly deserves an increase in pay from the roughly $1 million he'll make in 2020, he may encounter some obstacles if he's expecting big money next offseason.

The Steelers already selected running back Anthony McFarland Jr. in the fourth round of this year's NFL Draft, so no one (including Conner) should be surprised if they're in the market for a different running back next offseason. As you can see, both the draft class and free agency class are overflowing with talent.

It's unfortunate, but running backs have the shortest shelf-life out of any position in the NFL. Some franchises would rather just draft another rookie than pay the player they have (or shop around for a high-end free agent on the open market).

It's a cold business at the end of the day, and Pittsburgh is famous for not paying its homegrown skill-position players. We have seen it recently with Bell and Antonio Brown, but this strategy has really been a cornerstone of the organization for quite some time.

Unless he accepts a bargain deal, Conner might just be the next one in a long line that fits that mold. If the two sides do end up parting ways, Conner will look to capitalize on his short window of opportunity elsewhere.

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Michael Obermuller is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Michael Obermuller also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username king_mizzard. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.