RB James Conner leading by example for Steelers

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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Often lost in the histrionics that seemingly defined a tumultuous 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers season, James Conner emerged as an inspirational story and a standout running back.

Now that Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are gone, controversy has waned at least somewhat and roles will need to be filled.

No longer a fill-in for Bell, Conner is the front runner of a running back corps that includes Jaylen Samuels and rookie Benny Snell Jr.

A survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma who is now cancer free, Conner has quickly become a leader, but he contends he's just leading by example.

"It's something that just happens," said Conner, via the team website, of becoming a leader when you're a returning starter. "I just go about my business, and when I can help someone I will. If that is a leader role, it is."

Thus, voluntary or not, Conner has been at the Steelers' organized team activities. No matter how one views the importance of OTAs, just showing up is likely a breath of fresh air for the Steelers faithful which endured a season in which Bell missed all 16 games and Brown missed the final contest of the season before a bumpy offseason that culminated with him being traded to the Oakland Raiders.

"The first rule of getting better is showing up," Conner said. "With all of us being here, running the plays we are going to be in season, it's going to help us in the long run.

"I want to knock the rust off, do some conditioning, and be around the new guys. A little bit of everything."

Conner was injured for parts of 2018 with a leg contusion and ankle issue, yet still earned a Pro Bowl nod. In only his second season, he showcased his versatility with 973 yards rushing and 497 yards receiving with 13 total touchdowns (12 rushing) in 13 games. So, in many ways, he's already shown a little bit of everything.

Now he's simply showing up and bestowing upon his backfield mates an example of how it's done.

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