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Steelers Running Back Poised For A Big Year In 2023

Perhaps one of the most polarizing players on the Steelers amongst the fans, Najee Harris now enters his third year. No matter what some fans will tell you, he is good.


Pittsburgh has asked the guy to turn water into wine for the past two years, and all things considered, he hasn’t done a bad job.


Breaking Onto The Scene

Many people questioned the decision by the Steelers to take a running back with the 24th overall pick in 2021, but it was a big need for the Steelers at the time. Plus he’s great, so why fret?


In his rookie season, he posted 1,200 rushing yards on 307 attempts behind an abysmal offensive line and in an offense without any play action built in. People knew when Harris was running the ball, and he still went for 1,200 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.


Harris also proved to be a viable option as a pass catcher too, snagging 74 receptions for 467 yards and three receiving touchdowns. Harris had a great rookie season. Finishing well enough to land on the All-Rookie Team and a spot in the Pro Bowl.


There was just one problem, the Steelers made him the workhorse. He led the league in touches with 381 total touches. The downside is that playing running back in the NFL is essentially getting in a car wreck 50 times a night.


The high amount of touches helped Harris finish fourth in the NFL in rushing yards and seventh in rushing yards per game. That’s good, but Harris could’ve been ranked higher in both if not for the poor situation.


Does he miss a hole sometimes? For sure. But how can we blame the guy? With the line play he’s had he’s probably just shocked to see any holes when he does.



Sophomore Year

2022 saw Harris enter the season with an apparent foot injury. You could just tell he couldn’t plant or cut as hard, but that didn’t keep the competitor in him down. Harris still started all 17 games as he did in his rookie year, and 2022 he turned it up after the bye week.


In weeks one through eight, Harris stumbled his way to 361 yards on 108 rush attempts and a touchdown while catching 24 passes for 112 yards and two receiving touchdowns. Starting with the Saints game when he ran over Tyrann Mathieu, from week nine to 17 Harris exploded for 673 rushing yards on 164 attempts with six touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 117 yards and maybe the most important touchdown catch of the season against the Ravens that won the Steelers the game.


It was a night and day difference after the bye week. Before the bye, Harris averaged 3.3 yards per attempt. After the bye week, he boosted that up to 4.1 yards per attempt.


Harris ended up finishing his second season as a Steeler with 1.034 yards on 272 attempts for seven rushing touchdowns. He caught 41 passes for 229 yards and three receiving touchdowns, proving to be a nice security blanket for his rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett.


The Standard Is The Standard For Steelers

Now entering year three, the kid from Martinez, California finds himself with bigger expectations than ever on the football field.


The front office has bolstered the line. With the additions of Isaac Seumalo, Broderick Jones, and depth piece Nate Herbig this unit shouldn’t be bottom of the league like the past two years. Newly drafted tight end Darnell Washington, who calls himself the “Sixth Lineman” should also help Harris.


The offense maturing, in general, should benefit Harris. Better blocking, more play-action, and a mobile and creative quarterback like Kenny Pickett should make his life a lot easier. It even looks like backup running back Jaylen Warren has beefed up this offseason, ready to take some of the load off Harris.


All things point to Najee Harris turning up this year. If he can stay healthy he could be the heartbeat of the Steelers offense.

 

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