The offseason is always an interesting time of the year for the NFL, because it’s so typically full of optimism, at least outside of the cities that host teams who are on the decline from a height of success. Everybody is undefeated before the games are played, though. And every rookie hasn’t failed.
Draft coverage routinely features glowing praise for the latest selections, whether they come in the first round or the seventh, albeit not entirely without the occasional critique. There are also the ‘anonymous scouts’ who crop up to levy harsh criticisms about top prospects.
But for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris, there is no harsher critic than himself. While he’ll respond forcefully on occasion to certain comments—he seems particularly nonplussed to hear about his ‘progress’ as a receiver, implying that it was a weak part of his game—he’ll be the first to tell you that he doesn’t need others to point out where he’s lacking.
“I am my own worst critic”, he recently told Teresa Varley for the Steelers’ website. “All of the good stuff people say about you, you know there is stuff you need to improve on. You can’t hide it. You know it will show up one day, so you need to be honest with yourself”.
There aren’t a lot of flaws in his game, at least not that popped up in his college tape. He is one of the most complete prospects at the running back position, I believe, that we have seen come out of the draft in many years. Perhaps the biggest ‘knock’ is a lack of elite speed, but even at that, he’s certainly not sluggish.
“Playing football, you have other critics. You turn on ESPN and the first thing they say is how you shouldn’t draft a running back in the first round”, Harris said. “If I would have listened to all of that, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The only people I listen to are myself because I am the one on the field, my coaches, because they are coaching me, and my teammates. Every now and then I have my trainer, people in your circle”.
The rest is just white noise, background static that is easily filtered out as irrelevant. For somebody who spends as much time as he does going over tape and practicing, it would be nothing short of surprising if he were not intimately familiar with the areas in which he feels he can improve.
Of course, it never hurts to have a second set of trusted eyes, and he certainly seems to have already forged a strong relationship with Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner, going back to the pre-draft process an the Alabama Pro Day.