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James Conner signs with Arizona Cardinals

The move marks the end of the running back's long tenure in the Pittsburgh area

Pittsburgh Steelers v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Former Pitt running back James Conner is on the move, as he entered free agency in March and signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday. The move brings an end to Conner’s four-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers and will see him continue his career in a place where other Pitt alums have thrived.

Conner was selected by the Steelers in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft and played a limited role in his first season with the team. However, he ascended to second-string status and took over for Le’Veon Bell when the starter opted to sit out for the 2018 season amid a contract dispute with the organization.

In his first season as a starter, Conner emerged as a potential star, running for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games and averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Conner also tacked on 497 receiving yards and an additional score on a catch, bringing his yards from scrimmage to 1,470 and his touchdown total for 2018 to 13.

But despite an impressive start to his NFL career, Conner would struggle with injuries and inconsistency over the next two seasons. And although he bounced back somewhat with a 721-yard, six-touchdown campaign in 2020, the cash-strapped Steelers opted to let him go.

In Arizona, Conner is expected to serve as a complementary back behind presumed starter Chase Edmonds. However, he outperformed Edmonds in 2020, as he had 963 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns last season, while Edmonds had 850 yards from scrimmage in addition to five touchdowns.

In addition, Pitt alums have thrived in the Valley of the Sun, as Larry Fitzgerald has had a Hall of Fame career as a wide receiver with the Cardinals, and Andy Lee has served as the team’s punter since 2017. Now, Conner will have a chance at a fresh start with the team and could make his own mark on the franchise if he can once again claim a starting role.