Najee Harris
(John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Is Najee Harris The Missing Piece For The Steelers Offense?

Other than Trevor Lawrence to the Jaguars and Zach Wilson to the Jets, no picks from the 2021 NFL Draft were as widely expected as running back Najee Harris to Pittsburgh. Every mock draft had Harris going to the Steelers 24th overall, and the team did not disappoint. The four-year Alabama star was a cornerstone in the Tide’s offense, making plays on his feet and through the air.

The 2020 season was an interesting one for the Steelers, as they started 11-0 and looked like the clear number one seed in the AFC. Then the Washington Football Team showed up. In the last five weeks of the season, the 2-15 New York Jets had more wins than the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished the season 12-4. Their season was capped off by a 48-37 stomping in the divisional round of the playoffs by the Cleveland Browns. The score was relatively close at the end, but the game was over in the first quarter. Long-serving quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s arm also regressed as the season came to a close. The 2020 season marked the second-highest passing attempts in Roethlisberger’s career, a total of 608, but Pittsburgh ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing yards. In other words, the team is in desperate need of a scary running game to compensate for Roethlisberger’s arm showing signs of age.

If you watched the Steelers late in the season, two things were evident: Roethlisberger is getting old, and they cannot run the football to save their lives. The Steelers ranked last (LAST!) in rushing yards and yards per carry. James Conner was clearly not a sufficient replacement for Le’Veon Bell and the Harris pick indicated acknowledgment of that fact by Pittsburgh. With the addition of Najee Harris and the emergence of wideouts Chase Claypool and Juju Smith-Schuster, the black and gold can return to the offensive glory days of 2016, when talents like Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant, coupled with a workhorse back in Bell, put up prolific numbers. If Harris can provide a much-needed boost to the Steelers’ running game, their offense could become reminiscent of the 2016 glory days.


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