The 2021 season certainly hasn’t developed the way the Pittsburgh Steelers envisioned, from injuries hampering both sides of the football, to a number of players underperforming expectations.
One constant though has been Steelers’ first-round draft pick Najee Harris, who has shown a serious level of toughness and competitiveness despite tough sledding behind a rebuilt Steelers’ offensive line.
To date, Harris has forced 63 missed tackles (per my charting).
Harris has also created 663 yards on his own with the football in his hands, which ranks fourth in the NFL. However, he has just 708 yards on the season and a measly 3.6 yards per carry number, which says more about the talent and success in front of him rather than Harris himself.
All that said, Harris has been a key component offensively on the ground and through the air, earning the team’s MVP distinction from Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling.
Names like Cameron Heyward, Diontae Johnson and maybe even Chris Boswell could have a case for the Steelers’ MVP through 12 weeks, but it is Harris who earns the accolade from Bleacher Report.
“A very ugly Pittsburgh Steelers passing attack has derailed the numbers for most guys, but it has also revealed something else: That first-round investment in running back Najee Harris has unearthed a gem,” Roling writes. “Despite defenses knowing a 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger can’t hurt them as much as in the past, Harris has picked up 708 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, earning 40 first downs in the process. He’s also third on the team in receiving, hauling in 52 catches for 351 yards and two scores and adding 17 more first downs to his team-high tally.”
In recent days the discussion about drafting a running back in the first round has surfaced once again, especially after Harris was used very little on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but he’s been exactly as advertised coming out of Alabama. Knowing that, it’s clearly a hit on the pick for the Steelers, who have the running back position solved for at least the next four seasons ahead, which was undoubtedly a goal with the selection of Harris.
The 2021 season is without a doubt a trying one for the Steelers’ offense, but if the Steelers can continue to build around Harris moving forward, the offense will be just fine and Harris will take a star turn in the Steel City.