The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 NFL Draft class has been ridiculed every which way since the draft process concluded. Some said the Steelers did nothing but check boxes, or drafting by positions of need. Others felt a majority of their picks were considered reaches, mainly the trade into the 5th round to take Isaiahh Loudermilk.
Nonetheless, if there was one thing almost all experts can agree on was the team’s top pick of Najee Harris. But how good will Harris be in his first season as a professional? That is certainly up for debate, but two of ESPN’s NFL insiders believe Harris has Offensive Rookie of the Year potential.
Take a look at what they said in their preseason predictions:
Mike Clay, NFL analyst: Najee Harris, RB, Steelers. I have significant concerns about the Steelers’ offensive line, but Harris is a strong bet for immediate workhorse duties. He has the size to handle a majority of the carries and goal-line work, as well as the receiving chops to catch 50-plus balls. Even if his line struggles to find him lanes, Harris could push for 300 touches, which would vault him to OROY consideration.
Field Yates, NFL analyst: Najee Harris, RB, Steelers. No position has had a more consistent track record of instant acclimation than running back; it’s also a spot conducive to impressive stats. Harris — the first running back off the board — has a clear path to instant touches for the Steelers as well. Combine all of that with the fact that he was the best running back in the draft and you’ve got a serious on-paper case for being the OROY front-runner.
There is no doubt Harris will have plenty of opportunities within the Steelers’ offense, especially with the goal of 2021 to be a return to the running game, but when you are talking about the top offensive rookie in a season that is a different discussion.
Here is a list of the last 10 AP Offensive Player of the Year winners:
2020: QB Justin Herbert
2019: QB Kyler Murray
2018: RB Saquon Barkley
2017: RB Alvin Kamara
2016: QB Dak Preskott
2015: RB Todd Gurley
2014: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
2013: RB Eddie Lacy
2012: QB Robert Griffin III
2011: QB Cam Newton
2010: QB Sam Bradford
What do you think? Do you believe the former Alabama Crimson Tide star back will be the next Offensive Player of the Year winner? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the 2021 regular season.