Right after the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted running back Najee Harris, Eddie Faulkner made one point very clear. Harris is an extremely hard worker. A month into his NFL career, that hasn’t changed.
Talking to reporters in a Tuesday Zoom call, QB Ben Roethlisberger shed some additional light into the type of work ethic Harris has.
“He’s a really hard worker,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s in here extra long. I think the other day, the running backs coach told him, ‘Hey, Najee, I have to go home now.’ That just shows that he’s still in there watching film and he’s constantly asking questions.”
Harris’ work ethic and commitment to football was well known before the Steelers made him the 24th pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. After biding his time behind Josh Jacobs at Alabama, Harris became the Crimson’s Tide top back in 2019. He decided to return for his senior season, something most backs don’t do, to help Alabama win another National Title.
This year, Harris was supposed to fly into Alabama for the school’s first Pro Day workout, even though he wasn’t a participant in drills. But his flight was cancelled, so he decided to drive nine hours to be with his teammates. For his actual Pro Day workout, Faulkner said he went through a full workout before his Pro Day, never showing any hint of tiredness.
Harris has also been a quick study of the Steelers’ playbook, quickly grasping the team’s protection schemes.
It’s all great and critical news to hear considering Harris needs to be the team’s feature back from day one. There’s every expectation he will be, and in a 17-game season, he should easily eclipse the 300-touch mark. Le’Veon Bell currently holds the Steelers’ rookie record with 289 touches in 2013. Harris will look to revive the Steelers’ dead-last ranked running game a year ago.
For Roethlisberger, everything he’s seen out of Harris shows he can do it.
“He doesn’t seem lost. It’s not like it’s too big for him. His head’s not spinning. I mean, he’s asking questions, which is good, but he’s out there and he’s playing fast. And I think the most exciting part about Najee that I think we’re all going to be excited to see is once he gets it and it clicks and he goes full speed, it’s going to be something that’s something to see.”
On and off the field, Harris is seemingly checking all the boxes.