Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris is coming off of a big game, rushing for 122 yards on 23 carries against the Denver Broncos with a rushing touchdown. It marked the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and the first by a running back for the Steelers in nearly a year, though he already had a 100-yard receiving game.
It was the sort of production the Steelers and their fans had been waiting a month to see, watching him work behind a very work-in-progress offensive line that was not opening up many holes. And many suspect it is a sign of much more to come. Include Steelers Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis among them, who spoke very highly of the first-round pick on 93.7 The Fan on Monday.
“I just see a special football player”, he told his hosts, Ron Cook and Joe Starkey, on their radio show on The Fan network yesterday. “He can be much better than me. I was more one-dimensional where he is multi-dimensional”.
Bettis was a 5’11”, 252-pound bowling ball. Though he had smooth hips and light feet for his size, that didn’t really translate into him being a dynamic receiving threat. Bettis caught just 200 passes in his entire 13-year career, totaling 1,449 yards and three touchdowns.
Harris currently leads the Steelers in receptions with 28, going for 198 receiving yards, and his first NFL touchdown came on a catch-and-run culminating in a photogenic dive for the left-side pylon at Heinz Field—albeit in a losing effort.
“He can block. He can run. He can catch it. He can do it all. He has a chance to be really special”, Bettis said. “The key is you need an offensive line that can go out there and get the job done. You need a quarterback that can help keep the eighth man out of the box. You need some help. He’s got to get some help. It looked like last week he was getting that help he needs”.
Though it was his most impressive game so far, it is the second week in a row in which he averaged at least four yards per carry and punched it into the end zone. On the season, he now has 307 rushing yards on 78 attempts, up to 3.9 yards per carry (from 3.4 before Sunday’s game), with two rushing touchdowns. He also has the aforementioned receiving stat line for 505 yards from scrimmage on 106 touches and three scores.
While he has been picking up the production, the question is, can he produce a 2,000-yards-from-scrimmage season? Le’Veon Bell was the last to do it in 2014 for the Steelers. The Steelers have just two in their history, Barry Foster owning the first in 1992. For those keeping score at home, Harris would have to average 125 yards per game for the rest of the season to reach 2,000 scrimmage yards. He’s done that twice so far, within the past three weeks.