Although it’s the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris is still making an impact. This week, Harris teamed up with Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Mission Tiger to announce a donation to Pittsburgh Public Schools.
Harris surprised 7th and 8th graders at Greenfield Elementary School in Pittsburgh on Thursday to present a Mission Tiger’s donation. This Mission Tiger donation is expected to help more than 38,000 Pittsburgh kids play sports by providing improved fields, upgraded training equipment, new uniforms and more.
We caught up with Najee Harris to discuss his partnership with Mission Tiger, his expectations for the 2022 season and much more.
The Spun: Can you tell us about your partnership with Mission Tiger?
Najee Harris: This afternoon, we’re going to surprise Greenfield Elementary School with a Mission Tiger donation to help the kids out here. We’re donating $44,000 to help 38,000 kids play sports. That’s just something we’re doing. I always try to do as much as I can to help out the youth. When I was younger, I tried to do as much as I can. Now that I can work with Mission Tiger, it really helps me accomplish that goal.
The Spun: In my opinion, you had a strong rookie season. Were you pleased with your production in Year 1?
NH: It’s hard to say I was pleased. It was a tough year for us in general. Personally, I guess I accomplished the goal of reaching 1,000 rushing yards. But that goal changed during the season when I saw we needed more leadership. So those personal stats just left my mind. I wouldn’t say I was pleased, but it was a good starting point.
The Spun: What would you say is the biggest difference between Nick Saban and Mike Tomlin?
NH: Well, NFL and college football are two different worlds. The way you approach a college game is so different compared to how you prepare for an NFL game. The big thing for me is in college, if you lose two games, you’re out of the playoff picture. In the NFL, you could lose seven games and still be in the picture. Coach Saban is worried about school and football. He’s mainly about handling your business. Coach Mike T is more of a players’ coach. He sits down and chops it up with you to see how you’re doing. He’ll even joke around in the locker room. You probably aren’t going to get that from Coach Saban. That’s not a bad thing, that’s just how he is. But they both know how to win, and that’s so important.
The Spun: The Steelers signed Mitch Trubisky in the offseason. Have you had the chance to train with him yet, and if so, what are your thoughts on the move?
NH: When we picked up Mitch, I flew out there that day to meet him in person. We spent two hours together. I worked with him in Florida. We planned that actually. He has been out here throwing. Our expectations are to win, but it’s obviously hard to say what my expectations for him are because we’re not playing 11-on-11 yet. So you can ask me again when we’re playing 11-on-11.
The Spun: The Bengals are coming off a Super Bowl appearance, the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson, and Ravens made some big moves in free agency. What’s the Steelers' mindset heading into the season?
NH: We’re taking the No. 1 spot as we should. Shit, we should’ve done it last year to be honest with you. We just need to get some things fixed. We’re young - we have some people retiring like Ben. We just need to get a couple of more guys in the building. I trust Mr. Rooney and Coach Tomlin to put the right pieces in place. We’re not really worried about the division. It’s a really challenging division. You got Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson. Everywhere I’ve went, I’ve played in the most competitive division. But we can’t worry about all of that. We just need to worry about getting our team together.
The Spun: If Najee Harris was the GM of the Steelers, what would he be looking to do with the team’s first-round pick?
NH: Nah, bruh. I like certain players, but I won’t waste my time telling them who I like [laughs]. It’s not my job. I just got to worry about what I can control. I bet you they go defense though. They always go defense. I’m surprised they even drafted me [laughs].
The Spun: You had over 1,600 scrimmage yards in 2021. What’s your goal heading into Year 2?
NH: Be a better captain and leader. Working on that is really important. Now that Ben is gone, the offense needs a guy they can go to. I’m going to try to be that person.
The Spun: Is there a sense of pride when you walk out of the tunnel at Heinz Field and see younger fans wearing a Najee Harris jersey?
NH: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I used to be that kid. My favorite player was Adrian Peterson, and now, I’m training with him. Just seeing people wear my jerseys or ask for my autograph is surreal to me. The opportunities that have been presented to me are incredible. I don’t take it for granted.
Najee Harris may not have been pleased with his rookie year, but he did manage to have 1,200 rushing yards, 467 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. He was also selected as a Pro Bowl alternate.
As for his work off the field, it's very apparent that Harris is doing his best to make a difference in the Pittsburgh community.
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.