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Steelers

Steelers' James Conner an MVP candidate? Some around the NFL are taking notice

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, 8:03 a.m.
BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 04: Running Back James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
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BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 04: Running Back James Conner #30 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

James Conner stood up in a tiff, shook his head and said, “No, no, no, no, no.” He got up and walked briskly and incredulously away from a gaggle of reporters who were speaking with JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Conner walked out of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room, wanting zero part in a discussion media had begun with Smith-Schuster.

The topic: Conner’s under-the-radar but burgeoning NFL MVP candidacy.

Conner might not have wanted to talk about it, but Smith-Schuster indulged.

“We all know he’s a great player,” Smith-Schuster said. “You’re talking about a young guy who came in on the rise and helped out his team a lot. I think one thing about James that he does really well is he blocks, he runs, he scores touchdowns on the field, running the ball, catching the ball … he’s made a lot of big plays, catching and running and stuff. I think he’s the guy right now that everyone is looking at.”

Conner, a former Pitt standout, is second in the NFL in rushing yards (706) and tied for fourth in the league in touchdowns (10) at the midway point of the season. The only time in franchise history a player has more yards from scrimmage through eight games than Conner has now (1,085) was when Le’Veon Bell had 1,086 through eight games in 2014.

Conner wouldn’t have a significant role had Bell signed his franchise-player tag. Conner was slated to be Bell’s backup until Bell elected to stay home.

The NFL Network’s Adam Rank openly questioned on Twitter why Conner was not getting MVP consideration. CBS Sports columnist Jason La Canfora dubbed Conner an “MVP dark horse.”

Conner leads the NFL in 100-yard rushing games (five) and rushes of 20 or more yards (eight) and is second or tied for second in rushing touchdowns (nine), rushes or at least 10 yards (21) and scrimmage yards.

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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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