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Cardinals' James Conner after two-TD homecoming vs. Steelers: 'Special energy in this place'

James Conner made his homecoming count.

The Cardinals running back, an Erie, Pennsylvania, native who played his college ball at Pitt and his first four NFL seasons in the same stadium with the Steelers, grinded down the Black and Gold for 105 yards and two touchdowns during his first game back in Pittsburgh, keying a 24-10 Arizona win.

"It's just special," Conner told CBS' Melanie Collins about his return after the game. "Come to the University of Pittsburgh. Just trying to figure it all out. Having the end goal, the mind, of the NFL, and not knowing how I was going to get there. But it all started on this field. To have a four-year run with the Steelers, I don't take none of that for granted. Just thankful to be back. Special energy in this place."

The two-time Pro Bowler rode that energy to one of his best games of the season, recording his first 100-yard outing since Week 2 -- but it wasn't an explosive statement from the start.

Four of Conner's first five carries went for no or negative yardage, setting the tone for a physical game in stormy weather. He had just 21 yards on 10 carries by halftime, with his Cardinals leading the Steelers, 10-3.

And he didn't just have to manage the nerves of playing his former team. Conner also had to weather multiple delays due to lightning. One of them extended the break at half, and another paused the game in the third quarter.

But just as the calm eventually showed up to allow the long-delayed game to reach its conclusion, so, too, did a vintage Conner.

As Arizona's defense stymied the Steelers offense in the absence of Kenny Pickett, who was replaced by Mitchell Trubisky in the second quarter after suffering an ankle injury, Conner and Co. took advantage.

Trubisky fumbled a shotgun snap on his own 30 on his second snap of the third quarter, a gaffe that resulted in a Dante Stills recovery just 1 yard outside the red zone.

The Cardinals went to work. Apart from a Kyler Murray 9-yard scramble, Conner picked up every yard on the possession and eventually made a goal-line plunge to extend the lead.

Two drives later, he rumbled in from 9 yards out to make it 24-3.

Pittsburgh did finally find the end zone with just over four minutes remaining, but by then it was too late, and Conner had worn down a typically stout Steelers defensive line too much.

He took all seven carries on Arizona's final, game-clinching drive. He took three for double-digit gains, including a 29-yard scamper to begin the possession and an 11-yarder to put the Cards in victory formation.

"He was lights out," head coach Jonathan Gannon said of Conner in his postgame news conference. "Obviously, that's a really good defense. I thought the O-line had early chances to get it going a little bit, but the way he closed out the game. ... That's honestly how he always plays though. It's special for him coming back here. I'm glad for him to have a big time win."

Although it was just Arizona's third victory on the season, the outing showed what this team can do when fully healthy, and it provided Conner with a storybook return.

The name might have changed from Heinz Field to Acrisure Stadium since Conner called it home, but he made as much of an impact as he ever had with his former squads.

"I had this vision, you know, just to come home, receive the love and let God do the rest," Conner said.

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