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James Conner never felt 'pressure' replacing RB Bell

James Conner's play in 2018 allowed the Pittsburgh Steelers seamlessly to move on from Le'Veon Bell.

"It's what I have always asked for," Conner said of becoming the Steelers starter, via the team's official website. "Not the situation it was. I didn't ask for that. But the opportunity to be a starting NFL running back. I didn't really feel any pressure because it was everything I was asking for. I didn't look at it as pressure because it's what I wanted. It was a great opportunity."

The "situation" Conner refers to was the consistent questions about Bell that hovered over Pittsburgh most of the season. As Conner performed well, those queries and sideways glances lessened and lessened. Once Bell was officially out the entire season, most simply shrugged and pointed to Conner's dual-threat ability to fill the gap flawlessly.

Despite being at the center of the swirling Bell storm, the second-year running back had little to say about the situation.

"It wasn't ever my place to say anything," said Conner. "Even when I am playing well I don't say much. I am not one to talk much and promote things. It was a funny position to be in. I didn't have control over anything. I could only control what I did on the field.

"When my teammates said they believed in me, I didn't pay attention to the outside world, what they thought. I just came to work every day. It was a funny position to be in, but I started all year and things worked out."

The biggest concern for Conner was an injury that muddled the end of his 2018 campaign. When he was on the field, the 23-year-old back was a dynamic force. In 13 games, he compiled 973 rushing yards on 215 carries, 55 receptions for 497 yards and 14 total touchdowns.

With two years left on Conner's rookie deal, the Steelers don't have to worry about a repeat of the Bell situation in 2019. Pittsburgh has it's starting running back.

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