The Pittsburgh Steelers used a first-round pick on Alabama running back Najee Harris, bucking recent trend against using significant draft capital on backs. The team hopes that he’ll give Ben Roethlisberger and the offense an every-down back to rely on. One has to imagine the Steelers plan to use him early and often.
Harris, a former top recruit, saw his volume pick up every year at Alabama. As a senior, he ran the ball 251 times for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns, all career highs. He also caught 43 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns.
The Steelers have been looking for a consistent rushing threat since losing Le’Veon Bell to his season-long holdout, and eventual free agency. James Conner acquitted himself well at times, but missed multiple games every year. He finished with 721 rushing yards and six scores in 2020, and is now an Arizona Cardinals.
According to Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, word has come down from on high: run the ball. You can expect the former Crimson Tide star to get plenty of volume this season. Don’t expect him to last long when fantasy drafts roll around this summer.
Matt Canada said that there is a clear directive from Art Rooney to Colbert and down the line ""run the ball when we have to run it."
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) June 15, 2021
The Pittsburgh Steelers started the 2020 season 11-0, winding up as the NFL’s last undefeated team of the season. Things fell apart from there, with three straight losses, and four in the team’s final five games of the regular season. In the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Cleveland Browns handed them a 48-37 home loss.
Ben Roethlisberger, whose effectiveness tailed off at times late in the season, threw the ball 68 times in that playoff loss. He racked up 501 yards and four scores, but was picked off four times. It certainly wasn’t all of his fault, the Browns jumped on the Steelers’ defense early, but the team could certainly use a more balanced attack with Big Ben at 39 years old this year.
If Najee Harris is anything like he was at Alabama, that position should be of no concern to the Steelers this fall.