Even though the Pittsburgh Steelers have perhaps the most long-lasting multi-person decision-making body at the top of their organization when it comes to personnel, every year we hear the same questions about ‘internal debates’ and things of that nature.
The Steelers have a system whereby they essentially make the vast majority of decisions there is to make during the draft process in advance of the draft actually taking place. You’re not going to get any cinematic, dramatic debates about one player versus another, because the legwork has already been done. No, the drama in the Steelers’ room tends to be external, as owner Art Rooney II explained on Steelers Nation Radio yesterday ahead of Day 2 of the draft.
“There was no arm-twisting about this one, that’s for sure,” he said of the Steelers’ organizational level of comfort and unity in using their first round pick on the running back position, and Najee Harris in particular. “To be honest with you, we were nervous that our name was getting connected to Najee so much in the mock drafts, so that was actually what was making us more nervous than any kind of debate internally here.”
There was really never any point at which it seemed as though there was any division about how they viewed Harris. And the Steelers have already shown in the past that they value the running back position differently from other teams. They were willing to throw money at Le’Veon Bell. Twice. He simply chose not to sign their deals, the second of which was quite arguably superior to the one he would sign a year later in free agency.
Harris bears a lot of similarities to Bell’s on-field abilities, particularly with respect to his ability to play with patience and balance and in having a complete skill set that includes the ability and willingness to pick up blitzers in pass protection.
“He’s the kind of back that I think we need, and really, probably the kind of back that we haven’t had for a while,” Rooney said of the Alabama alum. “It all fell into place with not much debate inside the draft room.” That would be the Bill Nunn Draft Room, specifically, one of the latest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It was the Steelers’ priority this offseason to improve the run game. They obviously saw Harris as a foundational piece of that puzzle. They still have work to do to turn over the offensive line, but everything they’ve done in this draft so far — including the addition of tight end Pat Freiermuth — makes them a more capable running team.