Will former Alabama running back Najee Harris be the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft a week from today? There’s a good chance of that happening. Especially if the Steelers choose to pick a running back in the first round and Harris is still on the board at that time. With a week to go until the draft gets underway, Harris was a guest on ESPN’s First Take and Stephen A. Smith, a longtime Steelers fan, asked the former Alabama running back if he thinks there’s a chance he’ll wind up landing in Pittsburgh next week.
“I mean, like, you know, this is the draft process,” Harris said. “So, I don’t make the decisions. The only thing I can control is me training and working out and stuff like that. I can’t control that. You know, it’ll be good to be a Steeler but at the end of the day I just want to know where I’m setting up shop at for the next couple of years and what colors I’ll be wearing. If it is Steelers, then I’ll be more than happy. But like I said, I can’t control stuff like that.”
Several mock drafts and analysts believe the Steelers and Harris are perfect fits for each other. Tony Pauline of the Pro Football Network just said in a recent podcast interview that it’s all but certain he’ll be Pittsburgh’s first-round selection if available.
“It seems that the No. 1 player they are after is Najee Harris,” Pauline said. “They need a running back. I said last year they made a mistake passing on J.K. Dobbins because now, rather than handing the ball off to J.K. Dobbins, they’re going to have to stop him running over them with the Baltimore Ravens. (Harris) is a perfect fit. He fits the Steelers’ identity. He’s a three-down back. They have a gaping need at the running back position. So, I think and I have been told that he is the guy they’ve been keying on.”
Harris said in his Thursday interview that he believes he is very NFL-ready after playing at Alabama, because of the various offensive coordinators he has played for the last several seasons.
“We’re bringing all types of NFL guys in there,” Harris said of his alma mater. “You know, we’ve got [Steve] Sarkisian who came from the Falcons. We’ve got Brian Daboll, who is with the Buffalo Bills now. We bring in all these NFL guys and they try to make the offense as NFL-ready as possible. So, you know, me learning all these things there in college that now translate in the NFL.”
Harris has obviously had quite a few Zoom meetings with various NFL teams throughout the process. Of course the Steelers are one of the teams he’s talked to so far, and probably more than once. He talked on Thursday about how comfortable those Zoom meetings have been for him due to the offenses he played in at Alabama.
“I’m going to all these zoom meetings in the NFL, and I just know all of the things like this because we learned all that in practice,” Harris said. “We learned all that in film, We learned all that on game day. It just translates so well into the NFL that, you know, sometimes, you know, I wouldn’t even prepare for meetings. I would just know it already because it’s the same terminology as we used, it’s just different names. So, for them [Alabama] to get us ready to play at the next level, if that’s what you want to do, for them to bring in all the guys that they do and if you like competing then, I mean, Alabama is hands down the number one place you want to go for sure to get you ready for the next level.”
We’ll wait and see if Harris is ultimately the Steelers selection. If he is, it would be quite a story on several levels, and that includes the college he hails from. If Harris is ultimately selected by the Steelers in the first round a week from today, he would become the first such player from that college to be drafted by Pittsburgh in a first round since 1951. They selected Clarence “Butch” Avinger, a quarterback, fullback, and punter, ninth overall that year.