The Pittsburgh Steelers selected running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft with hopes that he can play a big part in turning the running game around instantly and in the process prevent quarterback ben Roethlisberger from having to throw as much as he did in 2020. Because of that, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com believes that whether or not the Steelers will have success in 2021 all falls on Harris’ shoulders and how he performs as a rookie.
“I know Steelers fans might expect Ben Roethlisberger to be the one cited to guide the Steel City to its seventh title, but the team’s playoff hopes hinge on whether a rookie running back can play at a Pro Bowl level reminiscent of what Pittsburgh got from the position in Le’Veon Bell ‘s glory days,” Brooks wrote. “The Alabama product has similar skills as an RB1/WR2 talent, and his ability to create explosive plays as a runner and receiver will add a much-needed dimension to an offense that has lost its luster in recent years.”
In a nutshell, Brooks feels the Steelers should not expect Roethlisberger to throw the football 608 times like he did in 2020. His attempt total was the third-most in the NFL in 2020 and on the heels of him missing nearly all of the 2019 season with a serious elbow injury. Roethlisberger is 39 now and the Steelers need to have as balanced of an offense as possible in 2021 and especially if the team wants to have any shot at making the playoffs. It will be up to new offensive coordinator Matt Canada to find a way to put less onus on Roethlisberger than he’s had on him in several seasons. Brooks basically said that same thing in his latest offering.
“Insert Harris into the lineup and the Steelers, who ranked dead last in rushing last season, have a three-down back with big-play potential when the ball’s in his hands,” Brooks wrote. “At Alabama, he displayed outstanding balance, body control and burst as a runner and spectacular skills as a route runner in the passing game. With Big Ben better suited to play small ball at this stage of his career, the addition of a versatile, big-bodied back with soft hands gives the Steelers’ offense another dimension.”
If things go right for the Steelers and Harris in 2021, the rookie running back will touch the football roughly 300 times in 2021 on his way to totaling 1,500 or more yards from scrimmage. Part of that success must also include Harris registering a successful run rate of 50 percent or better as a well.