• Please clear your private messages. Your inbox is close to being full.

How will Najee Harris compare to the impacts of Franco Harris and Le’Veon Bell?

Steeler Nation

Administrator
Staff member
Najee Harris may have been selected with by the Pittsburgh Steelers the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he was widely considered the #1 prospect at running back and was the top running back selected. Since the AFL/NFL began a common draft in 1967, Harris joins 2013 2nd round pick Le’Veon Bell and 1972 1st round pick Franco Harris as the only other Steelers to be the top running back taken.

Both RBs made an immediate impact as rookies and blazed a trail and created a legacy that Najee Harris has the chance to follow.






Franco Harris


Simply put, Franco was arguably the final piece that changed the trajectory of the Steelers franchise through this very day, but got off to a surprisingly slow start.

Chuck Noll was initially nonplussed about Harris, who was already behind everyone else as the result of a holdout and combined with his quiet and reserved nature, was appearing to lack confidence. New running backs coach Dick Hoak would recall that “Franco didn’t look very good” in his first few weeks and was a little stumped until Harris gave a glimpse of what he could do with a 75-yard TD run in a preseason game. The play prompted Noll to counsel Hoak to “Not over-coach him”, as he began to understand the self-motivation of Harris.

Noll stuck with his 1971 starters – Preston Pearson and John “Frenchy” Fuqua – to start off the 1972 campaign. The season started off strong with a 34-28 win over the perennial powerhouse Oakland Raiders, and after Terry Bradshaw engineered a Steelers comeback win, the team Noll spent three years building was growing confident they could compete with any team in the league. This would be put to the test with a game vs. the defending Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys. The Steel Curtain dominated the Cowboys offense, but unfortunately even with a 10-point lead, the Steelers offense was just as non-existent. The Cowboys used a gimmick play and RB Calvin Hill to throw a 55-yard TD that fooled the Steelers defense and led to a frustrating 17-14 loss.

The Steelers were on the verge of a 3-1 start with wins over a pair of the NFL’s premier teams but fell to 2-2. The running game was not getting the job done and Bradshaw was outperforming Pearson as a rusher – with 143 yards and 4 TDs to 195 yards and 0 TDs – a trend that could not continue. The date was October 15, 1972, enter Franco Harris into the starting lineup in Week 5 vs the Houston Oilers. He immediately provided the spark to the offense, rushing for 115 yards and a TD, with the team cruising to a 24-7 win. They would go on a 9-1 stretch to close out the season and Harris would tally seven 100-yard games to finish with 1,055 yards, 11 TDs and win Rookie of the Year.

The Steelers entered the final week of the season needing a win vs. the San Diego Chargers or a Cleveland Browns loss to secure the division. Playing later in the day, they saw the Browns won their game, but it didn’t matter. The Steelers crushed the Chargers 24-2 and secured the AFC Central Division, their first championship in 40 years.

The Steelers defeated the Raiders in a game that was the opposite of the wide open season opener, with Harris magically retrieving the Immaculate Reception to win the game. The Steelers fortunes ran out vs. the 15-0 Miami Dolphins in the AFC Championship – losing 21-17. However, many believe that the Steelers were the better team on that day and it was a combination of a Bradshaw injury and an ad hoc fake punt that prevented the Steelers from advancing to the Super Bowl.






Le’Veon Bell


Bell missed the 1st three games due to injury in 2013 and the Steelers started out 0-4. However, once he was healthy, he immediately integrated into the starting lineup for the final 13 games and was a major contributor. He made an impact immediately with 2 TDs in a Steelers dominated loss vs. the Minnesota Vikings played in London, but it would be the end of the longest losing streak in the career of Mike Tomlin. The Steelers went 8-4 the rest of the way to finish 8-8 but were a team no one wanted to play in the playoffs.

Bell led the Steelers with 244 carries, 860 yards, 8 TDs and tacked on 45 receptions. Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy won NFL Rookie of the Year with 1,178 yards and 11 TDs, but he played the entire season. Bell’s pace had his production on par with Lacy, who quickly fell out of the league.

While as a generalization, there is a legitimate case to be made that an 8-8 team does not deserve to be in the playoffs, I’d argue the 2013 Steelers were an exception. They were potentially 2 plays away from a 10-game winning streak. The Antonio Brown 74-yard lateral for walk-off winning TD vs. the Miami Dolphins and a Ben Roethlisberger 2-TD 4th quarter comeback vs. the Baltimore Ravens were spoiled by a fraction of Brown’s foot being out of bounds and an Emmanuel Sanders drop on a 2-point conversion.

Nonetheless, the Steelers had a chance entering Week 17 to still claim the #6 seed. After beating the Cleveland Browns soundly, the Steelers needed losses by those same Dolphins and Ravens – which happened – plus a Kansas City Chiefs win vs. the San Diego Chargers. But the Chiefs could not hold on to a 10-point 4th quarter lead nor convert a game winning 41-yard FG and the Steelers were left out.

What the 2013 Steelers would have done in the playoffs is anybody’s guess – but a team with a lot of holes (especially on defense) were shaping up to be a playoff opponents worst nightmare as they could win passing and running.



Summation


The last two times a Steelers running back was the top one selected, the Steelers may not have won the Super Bowl but were knocking on the door. One can argue this Steelers team is more well rounded than the previous teams mentioned.



What will be the result of Najee Harris’ impact in 2021? Leave a comment below.

#SteelerNation

Support SteelerNation by clicking here to read the story..
 

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

TDX27

Well-known member
I'll go out on a limb and say he'll have a bigger impact than Bell but not as Franco. Even in his career, I think he has the potential to blow by Bell. Bell is out there yapping is gums when the Steelers made him, he didn't make the Steelers. He has done nothing since he left and has no chance at the HOF which was easily in reach if he would have stayed. Najee is already one of the hardest workers on the team. I think he is right up there for Rookie of the year. If he stays healthy, I can see 1,200+ from scrimmage and 8+ TD's and very possibly double digits. But, that's not only where his impact will be felt. I think he will open up the passing game and this O will be MUCH better than last year. Hopefully, Tomlin doesn't run him until the wheels fall off and he gives others some carries to keep Najee fresh all year.
 

Steeltime

Right (Adj.) Correct/Left (V) Depart, abandon
Le’Veon Bell

The Steelers went 8-4 the rest of the way to finish 8-8 but were a team no one wanted to play in the playoffs.

Uhhh, teams did not have to worry about facing the 2013 Steelers in the playoffs. Also, the team gave up 610 yards and 55 points to the Patsies*** during the regular season so I don't think that "fear" was quite as deep as you think.

Franco Harris joined a team that had never made the playoffs in its first 39 seasons, and then went to the playoffs his first 8 seasons in the league, caught a ball out of the air in his first playoff game and basically told the world "The Pittsburgh Steelers are here," went to the playoffs ten times overall, went 14-5 in the playoffs when he played, won four Super Bowls. Leveon Bell is not in the same universe as Franco Harris.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

SteelerSask

Well-known member
I'm not going to prognosticate on his success. He doesn't seem to do the two step at the LOS like Bell but he is a dead ringer for him in the open field.
 

SteelerFan448

Well-known member
The Steelers need him to trend toward Harris' rookie year as opposed to Bell's. In fact, if he matches Bell's rookie level of production that'd be a huge disappointment.
 

Drink IRON City

Contributor whining about a tag
Harris F. = 4- SB

Bell L. = 0- SB. 1 year sitting out, bad tweets blaming us for his consequences of his decision......................

Harris N. = emulation of Harris F. & in Black - N- Gold uniform.





Salute the nation
 

madinsomniac

Well-known member
To date Franco is the only first round back in the modern era to be worth a damn for the Steelers... the sad part is Spindenhall was 2nd best....

im hoping this guy is everything that they say but even then he isn’t worth the draft capital they put in.... no rb is worth a first round pick....
 

SteelerSask

Well-known member
To date Franco is the only first round back in the modern era to be worth a damn for the Steelers... the sad part is Spindenhall was 2nd best....

im hoping this guy is everything that they say but even then he isn’t worth the draft capital they put in.... no rb is worth a first round pick....
Can you explain your thoughts on this. How can a guy that can run , block and catch not be worth a first round pick. He could put up 16-17 hundred combined yards. How is that not worth a first round. He could force people into the box and let Juju, Claypool and Johnson just dice a secondary. Seems to me the Titans were pretty damn close to a SB with a good not great defense and a journeyman QB and the best running back in the league.
 

Coach

I am a lying douchebag
Can you explain your thoughts on this. How can a guy that can run , block and catch not be worth a first round pick. He could put up 16-17 hundred combined yards. How is that not worth a first round. He could force people into the box and let Juju, Claypool and Johnson just dice a secondary. Seems to me the Titans were pretty damn close to a SB with a good not great defense and a journeyman QB and the best running back in the league.
Harris will prove to be beast in the red zone, and a good pass catcher with ability to run over players or use his agility to make a man miss, one of the nest parts of his game.

Clearly worth a first round pick.
 

Drink IRON City

Contributor whining about a tag
I would bet any of you Harris doesn't average 129 yards/game for 6 seasons.


NOT in today's pass happy league. It is hard to compare an ERA past to ERA present due to many things such as rule change, league philosophy, team design etc.. Don't take anything away from FRANCO as he has proven his ability and don't condemn or approve of Najee as he has yet to prove his ability.



Salute the nation
 

Drink IRON City

Contributor whining about a tag
I think he's talking about Le'Veon Bell's total yards from scrimmage average. Because he's still relevant in that fools brain.

You are absolutely right, he is. I was thinking Franco but I must have been fantacizing that bigben A.K.A mrs.bell had a biger football vocabulary beyond L.Bell.

fuckiT, my statement could still stand for either. L.Bell didn't win anythinghere and shit/chyt/shyite on his team mates & team. I was glad when he left and glad he isn't ever coming back.

Thanks Steelworth for enlightening me.




Salute the nation
 

bigben

Active member
So I take it none of you morons want to bet me? You people are most likely still betting on a breakout season from James Conner??
I'll bet cash, or maybe a Steelernation bet??
If Harris ends the year with over 129 YD/game I will leave the site, if he doesn't you leave?
Who's in??
 

Drink IRON City

Contributor whining about a tag
So I take it none of you morons want to bet me? You people are most likely still betting on a breakout season from James Conner??
I'll bet cash, or maybe a Steelernation bet??
If Harris ends the year with over 129 YD/game I will leave the site, if he doesn't you leave?
Who's in??


What a fucking moron




Salute the nation
 

stillwright

Well-known member
To date Franco is the only first round back in the modern era to be worth a damn for the Steelers... the sad part is Spindenhall was 2nd best....

im hoping this guy is everything that they say but even then he isn’t worth the draft capital they put in.... no rb is worth a first round pick....
I disagree with the RB and not using a first round pick. How many first rounders have we had that didnt get a second contract from us? I am assuming that is your reasoning. That RBs get beat up in their first contracts and are not worth a 2nd. You can have 1st round picks leave for a number of reasons. Can't afford them. They didn't pan out. And also they were beat up under their 1st contract. We have this young man for at least 5 years here if we want him. Maybe even a franchise tag also. I am happy with that.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Top