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Aaron Donald and James Conner named conference players of the month

The former Pitt stars are both in the midst of career years

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Former Pitt stars Aaron Donald and James Conner were both honored by the NFL on Thursday, with Donald earning NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors and Conner being named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. The two are on pace for the best seasons of their careers.

For Donald, the honor is business as usual and far from his top accolade, as he’s been a Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowler every season since entering the league, an All-Pro every year since 2015 and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017. In October, he amassed 13 tackles, 10 for losses, eight sacks, 12 quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

While that’s a fairly astonishing stat line for one month’s work, it’s made all the more impressive when taking into account the fact that Donald achieved all that while being double-teamed by opponents 70 percent of the time. Despite that, Donald leads the NFL in sacks with 10 thus far. Thanks in part to the defensive lineman’s efforts, the Los Angeles Rams are an NFL-best 8-0.

For Conner, the distinction is just the latest confirmation of his arrival in the league, as he’s been consistently impressive since making his first NFL start back in September. In October, he ran for 367 yards, added 159 receiving yards and scored six times over the course of three games.

As a result of his performance this season, Conner has sparked debate over whether Pittsburgh Steelers star Le’Veon Bell will be able to wrest the starting running back role back from the Pitt product in the event that he returns to the team. Bell has sat out the first half of the 2018 season, allowing Conner to become one of the top rushers in the NFL in touchdowns and yardage.

As of Oct. 30, the Rams were the favorites to win Super Bowl LIII, with 8-5 odds, according to Westgate, and the Steelers had the fifth-best odds in the league at 12-1. If Donald and Conner continue producing at this rate, they may find themselves on a collision course to Atlanta.