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Steelers Best plays of 2021: Najee Harris is the complete package

Looking at the Steelers rookie’s best plays.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Steelers rookie Najee Harris didn’t waste time making his mark in the NFL, setting franchise records and putting up highlights as a runner that we haven’t seen in black and gold since Jerome Bettis was in his prime. His first franchise record came only three weeks into his career, when he broke the Steelers single game rookie reception record. The previous record of 9 was set by JuJu Smith-Schuster in week 17 of 2017. Najee Harris caught 14 passes in week 3, including this beauty:

Steelers vs. Bengals, 3rd quarter, 5:12

Najee Harris is the running back.

It took seven Bengals to finally bring Harris down on that play. Harris and Chase Claypool were the only players making plays in the Steelers week 3 loss, and with the score lopsided as it was, the Steelers fed Harris a lot of passes and he earned his first 100 yard receiving game.

Not only did he blow up the Steelers rookie single game reception record, his 14 receptions is also tied for the most ever from a rookie that also ran the ball at least one across the entire NFL. He is the only rookie in NFL history to record at least 14 rushes and receptions in a game, and one of only 4 players to do so in NFL history.

But while it is a nice line for his career accomplishments, Najee Harris is a running back, so let’s look at some of his best runs.

Steelers vs. Broncos, 3rd quarter, 5:52

Najee Harris is the running back.

This one isn’t a huge play, but it’s one of my favorites. Najee Harris is a smart and violent runner, that’s his strengths. But look at that vertical cut. It is a thing of beauty for someone as big and power-based as Najee Harris is. He cuts and his 4 yards downfield in a flash. He drags defenders for a few more yards, but that cut is the star of this run.

Steelers at Browns, 3rd quarter, 3:43

Najee Harris is the running back.

Najee Harris absolutely torched Cleveland in 2021, gaining 326 yards and scoring 2 TDs in his two games against the Browns. This is one of the best runs from those games. It’s a great piece of work that deserves a deep dive. First off, notice the defender in the backfield to start this run:

Harris is dodging a defender immediately after receiving the ball, he fluidly steps around the obstacle and it doesn’t affect his acceleration or his vision. You can see the angle he takes at the end of that short clip. He accelerates into the small gap that will exist between the two defenders that are closing in on him, and he has the speed and foresight to split those defenders before diving in for a touchdown. He makes this run look easy.

Harris’ ability to elude tacklers and navigate obstacles in the backfield is top tier and a huge asset to a team with an offensive line that struggled like the Steelers did last year. One of the great reasons to hope for a better Steeler offense in 2022 is the line doesn’t have to be perfect for Najee Harris to be great. He can make plays even with some noise in his backfield.

Steelers vs. Bears, 4th quarter, 6:31

Najee Harris is the running back.

Najee Harris can also change gears and do a pretty impressive Le’Veon Bell impression like this run. Just when it looks like the defense has Harris trapped, he slips through a tiny crack for a 13 yard gain. Running for first downs with a 3-point lead and 6 minutes left on the clock is huge. Doing it on a play like this? That’s incredible.

Steelers vs. Chargers, 2nd quarter, 3:35

Najee Harris is the running back.

And then there is willpower. Najee Harris gains extra yards on runs like this because he wants it more. No stiff arms, spins or jukes here, just running into the defense and taking them for a ride. Najee Harris with a head of steam is not fun for the defense to deal with, hopefully we get to see more of that in 2022.

Steelers vs. Browns, 3rd quarter, 3:43

Najee Harris is the running back.

This run is just fantastic, and how fitting for it to be the run where he broke Franco Harris’ franchise rookie rushing record. While everyone loves the stiff-arm, I’m a huge fan of his double cut to get outside and break this run into the open field. Chase Claypool is one of a number of Steelers to block nobody on this play, and it doesn’t matter. Harris can change direction faster than the defenders and he torches two of them before putting M.J. Stewart on the highlight reels. Harris isn’t the most powerful, most agile, or fastest back in the NFL, but he brings all of those traits at a very high level, and that combination makes him a fantastic runner.

Steelers vs. Browns, 4th quarter, 1:00

Najee Harris is the running back.

Week 17 was by far the Steelers offensive line’s best game of the season. The team really came together to win this game for Ben Roethlisberger, and that showed up in the run game. The blockers win this play, and Najee Harris uses his vision, patience and in the end his top speed to turn a third and short into a game clinching score.

Heading toward the 2022 Steeler season, Najee Harris will be a major focal point of the Steelers offense, and if the offensive line, quarterback and play-calling can give him a bit more help than he got in 2021, we could see a truly special season from the Steelers talented rookie.

I picked these seven plays, now it is your turn to vote for which play was the best play from Najee Harris in 2021.


Which play was the best play of 2021 from Najee Harris?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    v Bengals - catch and run
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    v Broncos - crazy cut
    (2 votes)
  • 7%
    v Browns - touchdown dive
    (13 votes)
  • 18%
    v Bears - Bell impression
    (34 votes)
  • 8%
    v Chargers - dragging defenders
    (16 votes)
  • 31%
    v Browns - stiff arm
    (56 votes)
  • 30%
    v Browns - game clinching TD
    (55 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now