It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers have had trouble running the ball over the last few seasons. You can probably shift the blame on multiple places; the play calling, the offensive line play, personnel, etc. Whatever it is, the team seems committed to getting back to the ground and pound team they were once known for being. This was exemplified by the drafting of Najee Harris in the first round of the NFL Draft this year.
Harris was the first running back off the board in this year’s draft, and many feel he is one of the most exciting running back prospects in the last few years. He has a rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism that you don’t see very often. He was the guy the team wanted if he fell to the pick, and they did not hesitate to take him. This seemed to be the first step to revamping the run game.
There has been some doubts about the offensive line play heading into this season however, with the departures of Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, there has been concern about the state of the offensive line, and if there will be any running lanes open. So what does this mean for Harris?
Well although with a bad offensive line, sledding can definitely be tough, an exceptional back can sometimes lead you to take that with a grain of salt.
For instance, New York Giants running back, Saquon Barkley ran behind a line that was ranked by PFF as the 21st ranked offensive line his rookie year. That’s in the bottom half of the league. How many yards did Barkley have behind this line? Just 1,307 and 11 touchdowns. Both career highs. Not to bad from where I’m standing. This just goes to show with a special back and a semblance of a line, things can happen.
I’m not saying to expect this from Harris, but I’m not saying not to either. Barkley is an elite running back in the league and one of the best prospects at the position in recent memory, but Harris is no slouch. He is one of the more talked about draft picks at the position since Barkley himself, he could arguably be the most talented picked in the first round since 2018 Barkley was. His pedigree in both the run and pass game makes it hard not to have high expectations for the upcoming season. Mix that with his work ethic (he has been told to leave the practice facility after watching film for hours), and I think he will provide an instant boost to this Pittsburgh offense.
Statistically, I think Harris should reach the 1,000-yard mark rushing in his debut campaign, and well over that in total yards. The talent the team has in the passing game , and with new Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada taking over the play calling, Harris should find himself set up for success.
My final prediction for Harris’s 17 game stat line is: 1,190 yards rushing, 55 catches for 530 yards and 12 total touchdowns (8 rushing, 4 receiving). This may seem lofty, but with an extra game now added to the schedule and Harris’s talent, I believe this is achievable, and a realistic expectation for Harris’s highly anticipated rookie season.
Do you agree, Steeler Nation? Let us know why or why not in the comment section below!