James Conner continues inspiring journey with Steelers

Posted May 03, 2017

Mock drafts weren't including T.J. Watt as a first-round pick when he chose to leave the University of Wisconsin following a breakout season as a redshirt junior.

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Tennessee All-SEC cornerback and All-America return specialist Cameron Sutton on Friday night with the No. 94 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

The Steelers used their first round selection on Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt. He was named first team All-American honors by Sports Illustrated and second team honors by The Associated Press for his performance in the 2016 season.

Now the Steelers have another big name, and Pittsburgh's probably going to make a big deal about T.J.

I feel this is a player that can contribute early.

On Thursday evening, Mike Tomlin mentioned how he didn't think Watt was "raw" but just not with a lot of experience. Pittsburgh's 2017 draft focused on building up the perimeter positions on both offense and defense. Watt was a tight end at Wisconsin before moving to linebacker in the spring of 2015. He ran for 132 yards in an upset win over eventual national champion Clemson, part of a finishing kick in which he went over 100 yards in four of his final six games.

In Pittsburgh, pass rushing can make you a God.

Texans take Clemson DT Carlos Watkins in 4th rd
He said he also has quite a bit of experience at the nose tackle poistion as well. Cleveland now owns the Texans' first- and second-round picks next year.

The 6-4 1/2, 252-pounder's sack total speaks to his pass-rush ability, and his 4.13 shuttle time at the NFL Combine speaks to his fluidity and potential in pass coverage.

Conner received well-wishes from Pittsburgh's three professional teams - the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins - and even from former President Bill Clinton, who signed a get-well card for Conner. "They gave me the opportunity of a lifetime and they're going to get a great football player".

It was July 2015 and Watt, then a redshirt freshman, was recovering from a torn medial patellofemoral ligament for the second time in less than two years but was preparing for the Badgers to open fall camp. It's hard to get a good read on him, because the Steelers never punt, never kick field goals and always go for two (and convert, of course!) after their many touchdowns. I think the myriad of things they asked him to do within that scheme made it an easy evaluation.

As the season progressed, however, and Watt developed into a force on Wisconsin's defense, Colbert's interest was piqued.

Despite only playing a couple of seasons at outside linebacker, Watt recorded a breakout year in 2016.

Conner believed his game tape was "up there with the best of the best", so after seven running backs were drafted before him, he admittedly wondered whether his medical history made some teams hesitant.