The Pittsburgh Steelers are a team that prides themselves on being tougher than their opponent and dominating in the trenches. That is far from what happened during the 2020 season. The Steelers finished dead last in the league in rushing with 84.4 yards per game. They entered the 2021 NFL Draft looking to improve the position.
That is exactly what the franchise did when they were on the clock with the 24th-overall pick. The Steelers had their choice of running backs as there had not been one taken yet. They were linked to Najee Harris for weeks leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft and the fit seemed perfect. It became official on draft night when the Steelers made the Alabama product the first running back taken.
Harris was an absolute powerhouse this season for the National Champion Crimson Tide. He rushed for 1,466 yards on 251 carries with 26 touchdowns. Harris showed a great deal of athletic ability and speed to go with great size in the backfield.
The Steelers have not been able to put together a consistent attack in the backfield since the Le’Veon Bell saga ended in Pittsburgh. With the team looking to win right away, the addition of Harris gives them a workhorse that can carry the load and be a versatile back.
It is hard to imagine a situation where Harris is not the starter heading into the season for the Steelers. It is important to look at the player taken and understand where they came from prior to being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here are three things to know about the Steelers’ new running back.
3. Challenges Off The Field
There are plenty of great stories in the NFL and Najee Harris is going to add to that list. He did not have a solid upbringing and was even homeless for a period of time in high school. Harris attended Antioch High School and kept his eye on the prize from the day he entered.
The Steelers rookie was extremely hard-working from his first year in high school. He was named the starter as a freshman and that was a testament to his work ethic. Harris moved many times over the course of his early life and consistency was hard to find.
When it came to his work on the field, Harris was able to put that first ahead of every other battle he was facing. This worked out with flying colors. This is where he was able to find success and turn into an elite player.
Harris has taken his upbringing and turned it into motivation to give back. He has been extremely active off the field in building a better future for underprivileged children. Now that Harris has made the move into the NFL by being drafted by the Steelers, he will now have a bigger platform and have the chance to be great on and off the field.
2. Najee Harris Was An Elite High School Prospect
At Antioch High School, Harris quickly turned heads and made a name for himself. He burst onto the scene as a freshman and continued to improve over the course of his four years. As a sophomore, Harris rushed for 2,263 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 games. As if this was not good enough, he found a way to improve as an upperclassman.
Harris finished with 2,744 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior and 2,776 yards and 34 touchdowns during his senior year. These are numbers that are hard to ignore and Harris’ intangibles and physical makeup made him one of the top prospects in the nation.
Most recruiting rankings had Harris in the top three. This includes Scout and Rivals, that had him No. 1, and 247Sports, where he was second. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, it is no surprise that Harris found himself near the top of many lists and was a hot commodity for many of the top programs.
Harris ended up committing to Alabama. This is a program that has a long history of developing running backs and turning them into professionals. Harris is the next man up on that list and he will look to find that success for one of the best franchises in the league.
1. Najee Harris Almost Transferred from Alabama
It was expected that Harris would see limite time as a freshman with running backs like Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and Bo Scarborough on the roster. Harris logged 370 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries. This is something he did not handle well and almost decided to make a move out of Alabama. Ultimately, Harris decided to stay and it worked out in his favor.
As a sophomore, Harris saw his workload double despite Jacobs and Harris still being present. Harris finished with 783 yards and four touchdowns on 117 carries. When both Jacobs and Harris made a move to the NFL, this left just one option. Harris became the full-time runner as a junior and immediately took advantage of his opportunity. He rushed for 1,224 yards and 13 touchdowns on 209 carries as a junior.
The Steelers rookie decided to return for one final year at Alabama rather than declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. This was the right call and it ended up catapulting him into the first round. Alabama is a program where players learn from the best and develop into NFL-ready players right away. Nick Saban knew what he had in Harris but he was one of many talented runners on the roster.
Jacobs has turned into a stud at the next level joining a long list of recent runners that includes Derrick Henry, Mark Ingram, and Kenyan Drake. Harris has the chance to become the next great one at the next level.