Najee Harris has 83 rushing yards thus far through two games, his first taste of the NFL as a rookie running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On 26 rushing attempts, he is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, though he does have 47 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.
Needless to say, this isn’t what anybody envisioned in the bigger picture when the Steelers drafted the Alabama product in the first round back in April. He was profiled as a workhorse, do-everything back whose strength is his ability to create his own yards. But even he knows it’s a process.
“You want immediate results, especially being a rookie, and you want to try to find a way to impact the game and the team, but you’ve got to realize that it takes time”, Harris told reporters earlier today. “You’re just new at something, so you’re just really learning the small steps that you need to know to make those big plays, to be that person you want to be”.
“The plays are gonna come eventually. I know I can make plays, but it’s just me learning it”, he added.
Thus far, Harris has three runs of 10-plus yards, and four runs of more than five yards, out of his 26 attempts. Under 20 percent of his runs have produced a first down. He has six runs of negative yardage or no yardage. Only seven have gone for at least four yards.
“You want to do something so bad, but at the same time you’ve got to realize you’ve got to go through certain stages before you get there”, Harris said of the growing pains he’s going through. “I think every player has done that, from good to bad, every great player has had that adversity”.
Some of the adversity isn’t just Harris’, of course. The offensive line in particular, but also the offense as a whole, is going through an adjustment period. With four new starters on the line, a new line coach, and a new offensive coordinator, there have been a lot of moving parts since last season. Add in a rookie tight end and a third starting lineman who wasn’t a part of the team a year ago.
“My first year here, there’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t know about the NFL level, only because the only time you could practice it is in the game, or at the level”, Harris said, adding that the experience had been similar when he first got to Alabama. “I’m gonna get there, though”.
Fans are hoping, and waiting, if impatiently. After all, they’ve been waiting for the run game to come around a lot longer than he’s been here, so it’s understandable.