Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back, Najee Harris has received plenty of attention as we approach training camp. Both local and national media believe he has the potential to be a star in the NFL. We know he is going to run hard and drastically change the Steelers’ offense, but will that be enough to contend for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award?
Since, 2010, four running backs have won the award and the position is tied with the quarterback for the most awards won since 2000 (nine each). Heading into the 2021 season, Harris has the second best odds to win the award (+500 via DraftKings Sportsbook), with Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence having the best odds (+300). Harris is the only running back in the top 10 of most likely to win the award.
Harris’ potential and work ethic is already there, but he won’t be the deciding factor on if he wins the award. The Steelers have completely remodeled the offensive line and with the news of David DeCastro‘s release, Harris’ job just got even harder.
I believe the Steelers line has potential heading into the 2021 season, but releasing your leading run blocker is not what Harris or any member of the Steelers offense for that matter wanted to see happen.
I believe Kendrick Green is a vital piece to this Steelers offense, but newly added free agent Trai Turner is going to be the X factor. There are not many veterans on the offensive line in the locker room with DeCastro’s departure. If Turner can return to his Pro Bowl form this season, it could be the difference in an average first year for Harris and an award winning season for the tailback.
Harris is expected to be the workhorse, but because of his overload of snaps and carries at Alabama, I expect head coach Mike Tomlin to give guys like Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. a shot to earn some carries early in the season. If Harris only receives around 10-15 carries a game for the first few weeks, it may be tough to catch up to guys like Lawrence who will be playing every snap.
This award is not necessarily Harris’ to win, but more so the revamped offensive line of the Steelers. It would be great to have a dynamic offensive line that opens up not only holes for Harris, but the play action in Matt Canada‘s offense.
We know the defense will be good. We know Ben Roethlisberger will give the Steelers a chance to win. We know Harris is going to run hard and be effective. But this season and Harris’ chances at AP Offensive Rookie of the Year may all come down to the success and effectiveness of the brand new group of guys up front.
What do you think, #SteelerNation? Can Harris win the Offensive Rookie of the Year on his own? Or does he need help from the entire offense? Let us know in the comments below!