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James Conner, Aaron Donald named Pro Bowl starters

Conner reflected on the support Donald showed him after the announcement

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL revealed its selections for the 2019 Pro Bowl on Tuesday night, and former Pitt teammates James Conner and Aaron Donald were both named starters for their respective conferences. For Conner, who has enjoyed a breakout season at running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was his first invitation to the annual all-star game. However, Donald extended his Pro Bowl streak to five years, as he’s been invited every season since entering the league in 2014.

After the announcement, Conner took to Instagram to reflect on a message of support he received from Donald shortly after his cancer diagnosis in 2015.

“Three years ago, big bro [Donald] sent me this text after I got diagnosed with cancer,” Conner wrote in the message. “Today is special because it’s all coming to reality. One Pro Bowl down, more to come. Thank you for the motivation, bro. Hard work pays off!”

In the message referenced by Conner, Donald correctly predicted that his one-time Pitt teammate would “bounce back stronger and better than ever,” adding that he would look back one day after several Pro Bowl and All-Pro years and see that his fight made him stronger.

Donald’s prediction may be on course to come true, as Conner secured his first Pro Bowl invitation after amassing 1,376 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns in 2018. He also saw his role in the Steelers offense expand, as Le’Veon Bell sat out the season and may not return. If that is the case, it leaves the door open for Conner to build on his success.

As for Donald, his status as a Pro Bowl regular has long been secured, but he has continued to progress this season and put on perhaps his best NFL performance yet. In 14 games, the Rams defensive tackle has accounted for 48 tackles, including 20 tackles for a loss and a career-high 16.5 sacks. He also has four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

If the two Pitt products continue to produce at their respective rates, it’s likely 2019 will be the first of many shared Pro Bowl appearances.

The 2019 Pro Bowl will be played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Jan. 27, with the festivities set to kick off at 3 p.m. ET.