Najee Harris entered the Steelers season with high expectations. So far, he has not disappointed through seven games.
Harris was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month for October on Thursday. He racked up 356 rushing yards and four TDs in four games. Harris has been even better as of late, averaging 98 rushing yards per game over the last three.
The improvements have been encouraging from the rookie. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada talked about the strides Harris has made.
“We think he’s a total package back. We’ve said that from Day 1,” Canada said in audio provided by the team. “I think he’s running the ball, realizing how challenging it is.”
Harris has started to get the hang of it at the professional level. He averaged 3.1 yards per carry in the first three games for a total of 123 yards. He’s improved his yards per carry to 4.0 in the last four games.
Canada’s evolved trust in Harris is obvious as well. Harris’ number of carries has steadily increased.
The offensive line’s growth deserves some credit. With that being said, Harris seems to be running the ball better and tougher.
“At this level, I think his pass protection has improved and he had a really big [block] on the touchdown pass. I think you’re just seeing him become more comfortable, him playing more fluid. He’s certainly continuing to get better, which has helped us.”
Harris’ biggest known weakness is pass protection. The play Canada is referring to was that two-yard touchdown to Pat Freiermuth. Roethlisberger switched Harris to his left side to help OT Dan Moore Jr. chip Myles Garrett.
The pre-play move by Roethlisberger paid off, as it showed trust in his running back. Opposing defenses facing an improved Harris is a scary thought.
The rookie will only continue to build off his Rookie of the Month honors. Along with his tough running, look for Harris’ continued improvements in pass protection.