Steelers running back, Najee Harris’ debut campaign was truly special. He was a man on a mission breaking Franco Harris’ nearly 50 year old rookie rushing record, and even broke the Steelers rookie reception record. He dominated the record books and was recognized with a Pro Bowl appearance all within year one. And oh yeah, he did that behind what was widely known as the worst offensive line in the sport. To put it lightly, Najee Harris’ rookie year was outstanding.
But where can he go from here?
A big part of this question must be answered by the way the Steelers address their offensive line this offseason. Signing players in free agency, drafting a high level player, and bringing in a top ranked offensive line coach would certainly affect the trajectory of Harris’ young career. And honestly, if the team doesn’t do anything to try and strengthen the line I’m not sure Harris can improve much on his rookie season. He was already forced to do way too much with unblocked defenders in his face, and even the top backs in football could only do so much behind such a disappointing unit.
Najee Harris just shoved this Browns DB back into 2021 with the utmost disrespect. pic.twitter.com/TV59EgrVlC— Alex Byington (@_AlexByington) January 4, 2022
But, if the Steelers do recognize their flaws, improve their offensive line and spend a lot of assets on assembling a better unit, I would be on the look out for a break out season from Harris. If the defensive line actually gets driven backwards, for once, and some of the offensive line double teams make their way to the linebackers, I fully expect Harris to gash defenses for 10+ yard carries regularly. He’s too strong to get wrapped up by one defender, and lose his momentum, getting decent blocking means Harris probably has guys hanging off of him before the safety gets the last shot on to take him down. Think of all the times he fought through defensive linemen in the backfield and still gained 2-3 yards. Now, imagine if the big guys up front did their job...scary stuff.
If the Steelers address their offensive line issues I would expect Harris to be in the thick of things when it comes to leading the league in rushing. He is just that level of back and will get an overwhelming amount of the carries on a Mike Tomlin ran team. I’m not sure Harris will ever eclipse 2,000 yards in a season; however, when you remember the players who have accomplished this feat, they typically had 3-5 80+ yard runs throughout the season which really ramped up their totals. No back has methodically plodded their way to 2,000 yards before. Harris is a power runner who will mentally break a defense before he out runs them for an 80 yard touchdown.
But what do you think? What’s the potential for Najee Harris as he moves along his career? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.