The Pittsburgh Steelers knew they were putting a lot of eggs in one basket when they used their first-round pick to draft a running back. They believe they have the right man in Najee Harris, the Alabama product coming off of a national title season.
While it’s clear that he is their workhorse running back, the team is still sorting out who will block for him. One potential option is J.C. Hassenauer, whose most likely path to a starting job would be at center, where he started three games last year. Hassenauer was Harris’ teammate for a brief time with the Crimson Tide.
“It was my senior year, so I only overlapped with him for about six months, because he came in in the summer in like, June, and then I was out, obviously, after the national championship win, which was in about mid-January”, he said on SiriusXM last week with host Lance Medow.
Harris would go on to become an elite talent and a first-round running back, while Hassenauer has had to scratch and claw his way to where he is now—not even 100 percent assured of a roster spot, yet also potentially in competition for a starting job. But if anything, the opportunity to block for his former teammate is just a motivating factor.
“That guy’s a freak. I don’t know if you’ve seen the photos or clips, I think they shared a few of that one-handed catch he had in minicamp”, he said of the back. “He’s gonna be a huge chip for us, I think. Just with his effort, and as a running back, as a perimeter runner. I also think that he’s talented as a receiver. I’m not 100 percent sure how to grade running backs and all that, but from what I know, I’d love to block for him. I think he’s gonna be a tremendous asset to our offense this year”.
The Steelers ranked last in rushing yards a year ago, as well as yards per carry. Since then, they have swapped out their lead runner, their offensive line coach, their offensive coordinator and play-caller, and most of their offensive line.
While quite a lot of change has come to this area of the game, however, it remains to be seen how many of them manifest as upgrades. Many will say that it can’t be any worse, based on last season, but the reality is, it can.
It could also be much better, though. We won’t know until they get on the field and work together for a while and begin to gel. Or until we see what Harris can do with this line. We won’t know until we see how Canada puts his offense in positions to succeed, or at least tries to. All we know is that they’re trying, and the players are excited about being part of the solution, with Harris serving as a rallying point.