James Conner had one of the best stories in the NFL once he was drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He beat Hodgkin's lymphoma and became a starter in the NFL. There is no doubt in my mind that James Conner had promise running the football, but injuries plagued his career in Pittsburgh. He just couldn't stay healthy on the football field. James has never played a full season in the NFL without having an injury and missing games.
Surprisingly, last season was the second-best season in regards to putting up rushing numbers in his career. His best season was in 2018 where he played 13 games, for 215 rushes, 973 rushing yards, and 12 touchdowns. If Conner could have maintained those statistics from 2018 moving forward we would not be having this conversation right now about whether the Steelers should keep him or let him walk.
ESPN recently wrote an article about the Pittsburgh Steelers free-agency overview. In that article Brooke Pryor says "Conner is unlikely to be re-signed and the Steelers need a new No. 1 back. Snell struggled to consistently fill that role when Conner was inured and neither McFarland nor Samuels have the makeup of a No. 1. The Steelers will be in the market to add a new face, likely through an early-round pick in the draft."
That early-round pick will probably be Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, or Javonte Williams. It would make sense for the Steelers to draft an early back and get a playmaker running the ball in Pittsburgh. They need to get back to their physical running game and get Ben Roethlisberger some help. It wouldn't be surprising if the Steelers decided not to bring back James Conner, but it would be the end of an era for Conner who has played all of his football in the state of Pennsylvania.