Dunlap: There Are No Negatives With James Conner

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Le’Veon Bell is a great NFL back.

Hopefully, for the Steelers’ sake, James Conner gets to that point one day. I know this: Seems like the entire city is rooting for Conner. Well, maybe everyone save for a few boneheads. As it feels like the court of public opinion is turning a bit on Bell, Conner’s approval rating might be as high as ever coming off a 20-carry, 98-yard performance in the Steelers’ preseason victory on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons at Heinz Field.

I mean, how can you not root for Conner? You know the story by now, as it has been brought to you a million times and a million ways but always arrives at the same place. He’s tougher than just about anyone you have ever come in contact with, beat cancer, serves as an incredible role model to those afflicted with the awful disease and is a testament to triumph and hard work in the face of uncertainty about truly the only thing you have — your life.

Man, what a man.

But even before the grass stains had fully set in on Conner’s pants on Sunday, a debate raged on social media about how Conner “wasn’t Bell” and also how his production came against “4th stringers” in the Atlanta game.

OK. Who ever said he was Le’Veon Bell is my question? Who mistook James Conner for having that kind of versatility or game, especially in this infancy of his NFL career? I know I didn’t.

And to the “4th stringer” stuff, I have a retort: Wasn’t Conner teamed with Steelers backups when he was going against those guys from Atlanta, thus making it an equitable, rightful and fair matchup in which to evaluate him? From my vantage, that is what was going on as I watched him run around on that Heinz Field grass with the sun blaring down on him.

There is positively no denying that James Conner dropped a couple passes for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. They were passes that must be caught and ones that, in a real game, will come back to really burn you if you don’t yank them in.

So, to me at least, James Conner is what he is and what he will be for the foreseeable future for the Steelers — a tremendously solid backup for Bell and a guy who can be inserted into a game and give you max effort and production in those instances when Bell needs a play (or a few plays) off. Conner is also a great insurance policy if Bell gets dinged and has to miss a little time.

What I don’t get, and will never get, is the end game or motive of anyone who wants to try to knock Conner’s accomplishments right now. Let this incredibly motivational story play out and enjoy that it endures right here in our hometown; be happy a guy like that is wearing a Steelers jersey. There is, truly, nothing negative about it right now.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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