Steelers Select WR In 2nd Round, CB And Hometown Favorite RB In 3rd Round

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — In the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft, the Steelers took a wide receiver and cornerback, and also made a lot of Pittsburgh sports fans happy by drafting a familiar name at running back.

With their second pick in the third round, the Steelers took Pitt Panthers running back James Conner.

Conner was the 2014 ACC Player of the Year after scoring a school-record 26 rushing touchdowns. His junior year was cut short first by a knee injury and then by a cancer diagnosis.

Conner spent six months undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was cleared in time for the 2016 season. He grew stronger as the season wore on, going over 100 yards in four of his final six games, including 120 yards and a touchdown in an upset win over eventual national champion Clemson.

Conner embraced his role as a cancer survivor, speaking to cancer patients and making frequent hospital visits to help lend strength to others in their fight.

The Steelers believe Conner can provide a physical presence to take some of the pressure off star Le’Veon Bell.

The AFC North champions also selected USC wide receiver JuJu Schuster-Smith in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday, giving the Steelers a big target to take some of the pressure off Antonio Brown.

The 6-foot-2 Smith caught 70 passes for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns last season for the Trojans, including seven receptions for 133 yards and a score in a Rose Bowl win over Penn State.

Pittsburgh entered the draft looking to find a deep threat to complement Brown. Injuries and suspensions last season forced the Steelers to rely on small, undersized receivers like Eli Rogers and Demarcus Ayers.

Things could be very different this fall. The NFL conditionally reinstated Martavis Bryant – who sat out all of 2016 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy – last week. Schuster-Smith is tall and can get downfield. He averaged 16.3 yards per catch as a sophomore in 2015, when he caught 89 passes for 1,454 yards.

The Steelers have relied heavily on wide receivers taken in the middle and later rounds through the years. Brown is a former sixth-round pick who has developed into one of the best in the game. Schuster-Smith is the highest wide receiver taken by Pittsburgh since it took Limas Sweed in the second round in 2008.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley called Schuster-Smith a “do-it-all” guy who is also very young. Schuster-Smith is only 20 and won’t turn 21 until November.

The Steelers also added much-needed secondary depth with the first of its two third-round picks, taking Tennessee cornerback Cameron Sutton with the 94th overall pick.

Sutton had seven interceptions in four years with the Volunteers. He missed the first half of his senior season in 2016 with an ankle injury.

Sutton is the second defensive player in three picks by the Steelers. Pittsburgh took Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt in the first round on Thursday. The team will look for more help in the secondary and at linebacker during the final four rounds on Saturday.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE