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James Conner placed on IR by Steelers after MCL injury

The injury ends the former Panther’s rookie season

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt star and current Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s matchup with the New England Patriots. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin revealed after the game that it was an MCL injury, and he elaborated further on the extent of it during his press conference on Tuesday.

“James Conner will be having knee surgery this afternoon. He’ll be placed on IR. … He’s got an MCL injury,” Tomlin said. “Unfortunate for him. But I like the trajectory of where he’s going and his career was going here in 2017.”

Conner was brought down by Patriots defensive linemen Deatrich Wise and Malcom Brown after a two-yard run with just under 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. After the play, he stayed down in apparent pain and was attended to on the field before being helped to the sideline.

The news is particularly concerning because a similar injury prematurely ended Conner’s 2015 season with Pitt. That injury, according to a Pitt press release, was a torn MCL in his right knee. Conner’s most recent injury, according to Will Graves of the Associated Press, affects the MCL in the same knee.

While the rookie has seen limited action this season and has little to lose in terms of playing time, he has established himself as the Steelers’ clear-cut No. 2 running back behind star Le’Veon Bell, who leads the NFL in rushing with 1,222 yards this season. For his part, Conner has rushed for 144 yards on 32 carries.

Conner’s placement on the injured reserve list means his season is over, per Graves, and the Steelers announced that they signed running back Stevan Ridley to fill his spot on the roster.