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Cameron Heyward: ‘I Thank Kevin Colbert Every Day’ For Drafting Najee Harris

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense is, in a very real way, driven by the successes or failures of their rookies, perhaps second only to the play of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. While there are two rookies starting along the offensive line, though, the nucleus, the centerpiece of the offense, is first-round running back Najee Harris.

Harris ranks ninth in the NFL in all-purpose yards and (a shockingly distant) second in touches, his 165 touches being 72 fewer than the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry, who is now expected to be out for the rest of the season due to a foot injury. It didn’t take the Steelers’ defenders long to figure out how important the rookie was going to be this year. However, Cameron Heyward yesterday recalling how annoying it was to try to tackle him.

“The cool thing is, during training camp, you blow up a play, and you think it’s for a tackle for loss. But Najee’s always fighting for extra yards, and he’ll shake you out of the hole”, he told Rich Eisen. “I remember getting pretty annoyed, pretty pissed off at myself that he was getting out of it. Now that I’m looking back, I’m glad he’s doing it now. Glad he’s on my sideline”.

The Steelers’ run game has picked up in recent weeks, Harris rushing for nearly 300 yards over the course of the past three games, with two rushing touchdowns and a receiving touchdown in that span. His 84 touches have helped keep Heyward and his linemen where they prefer to be, as well: On the bench.

“When he’s converting first downs, I think it’s huge”, Heyward said. “Over a game, you just see him start to erode at teams. We’re needing every bit of it. The best type of defense is a defense on the sideline, and when Najee’s converting first down after first down, we love that type of ball”.

“I thank Kevin Colbert every day for making that pick”, he added.

Of course, there was intense debate during the 2021 NFL Draft over what the Steelers should do. There are those who steadfastly believe a running back should never be drafted in the first round. The offensive line was on the top of almost everybody’s needs list for the team, and they didn’t get around to it until Round 3.

They double-dipped in Round 4, and both of those linemen are starting, though they are also having their share of rookie moments. The arrows are all pointing up for this draft class, however, and perhaps in time, they will be remembered not for where they were drafted individually, but simply that they were all drafted together.

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