This morning, we mused aloud that the Pittsburgh Steelers would quickly find out what kind of shape first-round running back Najee Harris was in. Mike Tomlin immediately provided an answer, singing his praises in a Zoom call with local media Saturday morning.
Here’s what he said about the team’s top pick via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
Mike Tomlin on Najee Harris: "Highly conditioned as anybody out there. Great place to begin. Nice foundation from that perspective, sharp guy, football guy, passionate about football."
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) May 15, 2021
Here’s the full quote in a Zoom call provided by the team.
“He’s as highly conditioned as anybody out there,” Tomlin said. “And that’s a great place to begin. I think he’s got a nice foundation from that perspective. He’s a sharp guy, he’s a football guy. You can tell he’s passionate about football. He can articulate the game very well. So there’s a lot to be excited about.”
If you know Tomlin, you know being in shape and NFL ready is his top priority. By the end of offseason workouts, he’ll offer his annual “get in the best shape of your life” speech with the team having about five weeks off before reporting to training camp. It sounds like that won’t be a concern for Harris.
And judging by some of the photos the team shared of him yesterday, it’s easy to see. For a 6’2, 230 pound back, Harris is cut and well put together with a muscular lower half.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) May 14, 2021
Harris will need to be in top condition once the regular season begins. The team is counting on him to be their new feature back, something they’ve been reliably missing since Le’Veon Bell’s holdout and departure. Harris should be the team’s starter out of the gate and in this new 17 game season, he could finish his rookie year with upwards of 320+ total touches. When Bell as a rookie, he touched the ball 289 times despite playing in just 13 games.
Harris is comfortable being in that lead role. Taking over for Josh Jacobs at Alabama, he touched the ball 236 and 294 times in 2019 and 2020, respectively, helping to lead the Crimson Tide to a National Championship this past year. In the title win over Ohio State, he touched the ball 29 times (22 carries, 7 receptions).
Tomlin also mentioned Harris’ passion and love for the game, elements the team talked about in the pre and post-draft process. Kevin Colbert praised him for returning for his senior season to help Alabama win a title. Harris drove nine hours to his first Pro Day, one he didn’t even participate in, so he could be around his teammates. And Steelers’ RBs Coach Eddie Faulkner praised Harris’ work ethic during his actual Pro Day and once he got to Pittsburgh.
Because of restrictions on rookie minicamp roster sizes, Harris is the only back currently in Pittsburgh for Tomlin to evaluate. But two days in, he clearly likes what he sees.