Two former Pitt football stars earned captaincy for their NFL Teams on Monday in Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett and Arizona Cardinals running back James Conner.
Pickett is the most accomplished quarterback in Panthers history. as his 12,303 career passing yards and 81 career passing touchdowns from 2017-21 are the most in program history. His 2021 season is the best season in Panthers history, as he threw for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns, both program single-season records, en route to an ACC Championship title, the first in school history.
He earned a slew of accolades for his performance in 2021, including ACC Player of the Year, First-Team All-American, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and Heisman Finalist honors.
The Steelers drafted Pickett with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and made him a starter in the fifth game of the season. He finished with a 7-5 record in 12 starts in 2022, threw for 2,404 yards and seven touchdowns, along with three rushing touchdowns.
Conner had an exceptional career at Pitt from 2013-16. He joined the team as a defensive lineman, but transitioned to running back and starred in the Little Caesar’s Bowl, rushing for a program record 229 yards.
His 2014 season is one of the best in school history, rushing for a program record 26 touchdowns and having the fourth most rushing yards with 1,765. Conner earned First-Team All-American and ACC Player of the Year honors for his efforts.
He sat out most of 2015, after suffering a MCL tear in the first game. Conner also dealt with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and worked through rehab to become cancer free before 2016.
Conner finished his Pitt career with 3,733 rushing yards and 56 rushing touchdowns, both second most in Pitt history behind the legend that is Tony Dorsett.
The Steelers drafted Conner in the Third Round of the 2017 NFL Draft. His 2018 season, where he ran for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also making 55 catches for 497 yards, earned him a spot at the Pro Bowl.
He left the Steelers after four seasons and is in his third season with the Cardinals in 2023. His 753 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in 2021 gave him his second Pro Bowl placement. Conner has ran for 3,836 yards and 44 touchdowns in the first six seasons in the NFL.
The Pitt football pipeline to the NFL has continued to flourish under head coach Pat Narduzzi, with 25 draft selections in his first eight seasons at the helm, including