With the retirement of longtime Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an on-the-field void was left. Beyond just finding a new quarterback though, the Steelers lacked a veteran leader on the offensive side of the ball. It’s a young group, and in fact, the least expensive offense in the league. Since Roethlisberger’s retirement, Najee Harris has seemed as the most likely leader to take over.
Despite just one NFL season under his belt, Harris showed an innate ability to be a leader in his rookie season. Head coach Mike Tomlin made an appearance on The Pivot Podcast, featuring former NFL players Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Taylor. In doing so, Clark asked Tomlin what guys he expects to step up this season with Roethlisberger no longer with the team.
“Right now, a little side project that I’m on is I’m fostering the growth and development of leadership. I’m bridging the transitional leadership relationship between Cameron Heyward and Najee [Harris],” Tomlin said. “Najee is a leader, he was a born leader. He’s got good football morals, he sees the game the way we see the game. He wants to be a part of what’s right. That needs to be cultivated, that needs to be trained. Going back in the last year, I’ve challenged Cam Heyward to help him grow in that way.”
In the early-2010s, the elite Steelers defense was beginning to get older with each passing day. By the time Heyward was selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, many guys from that era remained, but they were essentially on their way out. In the process, they eventually passed on the leadership hat to Heyward. Now, as Heyward is set to enter his 12th season in Pittsburgh, he’s about to do the same with a new wave of young players.
Harris’ talents go beyond just his on-the-field performances, as Tomlin mentions. That’s saying something for a guy who finished fourth in the NFL in rushing yards in his rookie season. The sky is the limit for the Alabama product, and he seems to be next in the pecking order of tremendous leaders in the Steelers locker room.
“That dude [Harris is] a bell cow. He’s going to have to be a bell cow for us. If this train is going anywhere in 2022, he’s going to be a major component of it, and he’s capable. I’m not even talking from a talent standpoint, we know that. He’s capable from an intangible standpoint, bringing the best out in his teammates, wearing the responsibility that comes with leading.”
Harris feels as if a guy that could be a Steeler for life. Of course, we say this about nearly every really good player that comes through any of our favorite sports teams. Harris, though, is different, and you can even tell in how he conducts himself with the media at press conferences. He’s a genuine person, and Heyward mentoring him is the perfect combination. Big things ahead for Najee Harris in 2022 and beyond.
What are your guys’ expectations for Harris in 2022? Do you think Harris will do well as the primary leader on the offensive side of the ball? He seems destined for this kind of opportunity. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and what you thought of Tomlin’s appearance on Ryan Clark’s podcast!
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