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Steelers RB Najee Harris weighs in on RB franchise tag debate

To pay or not to pay your team’s stud running back? That is the question, and Steelers RB Najee Harris has an answer.

Najee Harris #22 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a first down against the Baltimore Ravens during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The deadline for NFL teams and franchise-tagged players to agree to a long-term extension has officially come and gone. As of Monday, July 17 at 4 p.m. ET, running backs Saquon Barkley (Giants), Josh Jacobs (Raiders), and Tony Pollard (Cowboys) will officially have to play the 2023 NFL season under the franchise tag or elect to sit out the 2023 season Le’Veon Bell-style.

Unsurprisingly, considering — you know — he is a running back, the Steelers’ 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris had some thoughts.

Harris certainly doesn’t stand alone in his fight for the league’s running backs to see a fair payday, equal to what they contribute to the game on an every-down basis. Running backs throughout the league are tasked with taking big-time hits virtually every down, shortening the length of their careers (and limiting potential earnings). Yet still, their compensation doesn’t match up with what is asked of them.

It does seem that the NFL will have to answer some questions when it comes to how the league will value (and pay) the position moving forward. There’s a growing sense of frustration among the league’s running backs, with more players taking to social media and podcasts as an avenue to express those concerns.

This offseason, there have been a number of star running backs released in order to preserve cap space, including veterans Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook among others, while Joe Mixon (Bengals) and Aaron Jones (Packers) each took pay cuts in order to remain with their teams.

Unfortunately, the Steelers aren’t all that far out from having to make their own regarding Harris’ future with the team. They’ll have to decide after 2023 whether or not to exercise his fifth-year option, but even then, will need to eventually decide whether or not he’s worth the investment of a second contract with the team. Despite some disappointment from fans regarding Harris’ efficiency, he’s totaled 2,930 scrimmage yards (6th among RBs) and 20 total touchdowns (tied-9th) in his first two seasons.

Here’s a look at some other running back reactions from around the league.