Steelers News

Derek Watt Sees ‘Special’ Talent In Najee Harris Through Hard Work And Adapting

Outside of Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans, now out for the remainder of the season, no individual player plays a more vital role in their team’s offense in transporting the football from point A to point B than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Najee Harris.

The rookie running back ranks second in the NFL in total touches this year with 190, behind only Henry, which he will obviously pass in a couple of weeks. Only Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints is particularly close at 178 also in eight games. But the pace of his workload has only picked up in recent weeks—because his skills and the needs of the offense demand it.

He’s special. You see what he does on those Sundays and Monday nights”, fullback Derek Watt told reporters earlier today about his rookie running back—for whom he rarely gets the chance to block, admittedly. “He works hard out here every day. The biggest thing is he’s understanding when a play is not going the way that we want it to, to just get what you can get and not try to make something special out of it, and that’s tough to do in the NFL”.

That is something that Harris has been very forthright about, understanding that there are adjustments that he has to make moving from the college level to the pros and recognizing that the talent level on the other side of the ball is consistently higher across the board.

“Understanding how important it is, just to even get two yards or one yard in the NFL is really hard, especially with the type of guys they got across the ball”, Harris told reporters just last week. “Me understanding that not every run’s gonna be a home run and a four-yard run is good because now it’s second down, it’s shorter, and you could run better plays, it makes it easier for the offensive coordinator and the rest of the team. Taking what they give you in the NFL is kind of big, I’m learning”.

The rookie was trying to ‘do too much’ too often earlier in the season, and that was leading to a higher percentage of negative plays, and plays of negative yardage. It’s much easier to turn nothing into something in college than it is in the NFL. Getting to this level and staying there requires figuring that out early on.

“A play breaks down, to try to outrun guys sideline to sideline, do things like that, is tough to do, so take what you can get, and not try to force things and make a bad play worse”, Watt said. “That’s been cool to see him kind of mature in that sense”.

The rookie back has recorded 109 touches over the course of the past four games, among them 95 rushes, and he has scored four touchdowns. He has become the straw that stirs the Steelers’ drink on offense, as Le’Veon Bell was not so long ago.

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