Foster: 'You have to root for the guy'

Continued improvement: James Conner had his best statistical game of the season in the opener against the Browns, carrying the ball 31 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns.

But he has gotten better since then, even if he hasn't matched the opening day numbers.

"I think he is a lot better," said Maurkice Pouncey. "He is getting a lot more comfortable. It is easy to go out there in the preseason, guys don't play up to the speed of the regular season. He had to get the game flow back in him. He got hurt at the end of last season. I think he is doing a great job. He is excelling at a high rate. Guys on the team are loving it."

And it's not just since Week 1 that he has shown improvement. Ramon Foster sees him as a much different back than a year ago, when he was a rookie just getting his feet wet.

"He is a guy that has diversified himself in the passing game," said Foster. "Moving forward we have to make sure he is a guy we can count on, and he is showing that.

"He is a downhill type of guy. He doesn't look that big, but he is powerful. I salute him for what he has done. I salute his mentality more than anything. There were a couple of times last year when he ran out of bounds a little bit, and coach kind of said something to him, but now he is fully involved in AFC North ball. He has been physical. He wants to be successful. You have to root for the guy."

Connor said the running style that his teammates are seeing, is the same style he has gone with his entire career. It's one that is perfect for AFC North football, especially as the cold weather approaches and the ground game kicks into overdrive.

"I have had the same running style my whole life," said Conner. "I guess it just worked out like that, that it's good for AFC North football.

"No matter the conditions, we continue to play football at the end of the day. We have to play fast and physical. I am from up here. I am used to the cold. I like to use any advantage I can get. I try to bring the same energy, the same mindset all season."

I think their defense is playing super well, their offense is playing well. They are close to getting the wins and they can sense that. They are a good team. We’re going to have to go out and play a great, sound game and try to create turnovers and do our best on defense. T.J. Watt on the Browns

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Aggressive approach: The Steelers offense has gotten a nice bump this season with a healthy Vance McDonald heavily in the mix, and he has even opened the eyes of his offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner with some of the skills he is showing.

"He is very athletic," said Fichtner. "He gives you the ability to push the ball down the yard. He is really good running with it. I didn't expect that to be as pronounced as it is. He has done a really nice job turning short plays into longer plays."

Being healthy has been a key for McDonald. Last season he battled an ankle and shoulder injury that sidelined him, but that hasn't been the case this season.

"I think he has done a nice job with his body, taking care of it, working through nicks," said Fichtner. "He plays so aggressive, he is so fearless, that he puts his body in harm's way and he is going to take some of those hits. He has done a nice job of making himself available and playing more plays each and every game."

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