Yesterday marked the first preseason action for the 2021 NFL season — and the first in-game NFL action for rookie running back Najee Harris.
Harris was one of just four expected offensive starters (Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Kendrick Green) to see time on the field Thursday as his Pittsburgh Steelers took down the Dallas Cowboys 16-3 in the annual Hall of Fame game.
As the Steelers’ first pick in the 2021 draft (No. 24 overall), Harris is expected to make an immediate impact as a starter for Pittsburgh — turning around last year’s league-worst rushing attack (84.4 yards per game).
That being said, longtime head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t looking for anything earth-shattering from Harris last night.
“We weren’t looking for the spectacular,” Tomlin said, per Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We wanted him to make the routine plays routinely … power forward. He did all the things we wanted him to do.”
Through three offensive series, Harris notched 22 yards on seven carries.
Last year’s leading rusher for the Steelers, James Conner, left Pittsburgh in free agency earlier this offseason — leaving the door wide open for Harris to take over as team’s starting running back in 2021.
Through his senior year with Alabama in 2020, Harris finished the season as a Heisman finalist with 1,891 total yards and 30 touchdowns.