If there’s one thing new to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ newest running back, Najee Harris, it’s simply having time on his hands. During rookie minicamp, he talked about how much free time he now has in comparison to his days as the proverbial student-athlete at Alabama.
But he also sees a lot of similarities between what he did on the field there and what he will in Pittsburgh. And he had plenty of time to talk it over with running backs coach Eddie Faulkner. They were literally the only two people involved in his position group during rookie minicamp.
“There’s a lot of things that are actually similar”, he said of what he’s learning of Matt Canada’s offense in comparison to what he did with the Crimson Tide. “It’s just different terminology, but the same meaning at the end of the day. A lot of stuff that has different names from what we’ll do, but it all means the same stuff”.
“The schemes of the runs, the inside zone, the outside zone, the power plays, the one-back power, the duo plays”, he added, “a lot of what they’re doing in their offense really resembles a lot of what we did, just putting the players in the best position to make a play, and really not doing too much thinking: Just fast playing. The more you think, the slower you play, so it seems like they’re trying to make everything as easy as possible so the players could just play fast and really use the best of their ability”.
One of the most important changes that was made on defense when the Steelers shifted from Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator to Keith Butler was to streamline and simplify things. Whether by coincidence or not, it’s been a lot more common for rookies and young players to get on the field quickly.
I don’t know whether or not the Steelers are meaningfully simplifying things under Canada after three years under Randy Fichtner and six under Todd Haley before that. Obviously, neither does Harris, since he just got here. It would actually be interesting to hear what the veterans have to say about the differences when OTAs open next week — assuming any veterans are there, and speak to the media.
Whether simple or complex, though, Harris is expected to be a heavy contributor from day one. He will immediately be installed as their feature back, and can probably expect to see something in the vicinity of 300 touches this year.