Was the Pittsburgh Steelers selection of running back Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft the team’s best pick overall? Nate Burleson of ‘Good Morning Football’ believes that’s the case. He gave his reason for thinking that during a Tuesday morning segment on the show.
“But I love Najee Harris,” Burleson said. “That pick, for me, just stands out because he just fits the mold, a bigger back, physical, strong, and we’ve needed a running back to be a something for this team for quite some time. I remember playing against the Steelers and that’s one thing they always had, a running back and great linebackers. And I knew that they were going to try to run the ball down our throat and on the flip side, if I was crossing the middle as a wide receiver, they were going to try to knock my block off. And if they can have that on both sides of the ball, which that defense can run and they can hit it, they get Devin Bush back healthy, the defense has taken shape. And now on the offense side of ball, you addressed the offensive line, they protect Big Ben, and they have a guy you can hand the ball off to.”
Burleson went on to further describe how he believes the Steelers’ addition of Harris could help the team’s offense in 2021, and why it was the right decision for the organization to pick the Alabama product in the first round.
“So, when they go through a time where there’s some incompletions, the ball’s coming out too fast, maybe even Big Ben’s arm is done, or the wide receivers are dropping balls, you have a running back you can lean on,” Burleson said. “That was the problem. When the offense was sputtering, James Conner and the rest of the running backs couldn’t hold down the fort. Now, James Conner was kind was a little banged up and I think that’s the reason why he’s not there anymore, but Najee Harris is a guy that’s going to fit this mold perfectly. I love the selection.”
Time will tell if Burleson is right, right? Additionally, that time should move along quickly, as Harris is expected to be the Steelers’ bell cow running back right out of the chute in 2021. He could potentially touch the football 275 or more times as a rookie.
With the NFL moving to a 17-game season in 2021, it seems highly likely that Harris will end up breaking the Steelers’ rookie rushing yardage record, which currently belongs to Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, and has since 1972. All Najee Harris needs to do is to average a little more than 62 yards in over 17 games to set a new Steelers’ rookie rushing yardage record.
Let’s also not forget that Harris should be able to catch at least 45 passes as a rookie, as well. In short, he could just as easily touch the football right around 300 times as a rookie if he stays healthy. If he does touch the football that many times, he should easily register more than 1,300 total yards from scrimmage. The Steelers’ franchise record for total yards from scrimmage as a rookie is 1,259 on 289 total touches. It currently belongs to running back Le’Veon Bell, set in 2014.
Burleson also added on Tuesday that he thinks the Steelers got a gift at 24 overall in Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I thought he was going to go a lot sooner,” Burleson said. “I still feel like this is a value pick and at 24, I truly believe the Steelers are sitting there saying, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that he fell to us.’ And they got the guy that they wanted.”