At times on Sunday evening inside Arrowhead Stadium against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie running back Najee Harris some of those traits that made him a special running back coming out of Alabama.
Against a stout Chiefs’ defense, Harris rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries, adding in an impressive 21-yard run that seemed to spark the Steelers’ offense — at least for the time being.
Best run of the day for Najee Harris, in terms of yardage and vision, not to mention power at the end. Watch the EZ view where he switches the ball to his outside hand and is able to swipe away Thornhill's hands to gain another 7-8 yards. That finish is tough too! #Steelers pic.twitter.com/NoTeHuZInE
— Josh Carney (@ByJoshCarney) December 29, 2021
It was an impressive run from the rookie who isn’t used to having that type of space to work with, but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Steelers scored just 10 points total on the day in a 36-10 loss. Against the Chiefs, Harris finished with 107 yards on 24 total touches, but despite the strong day for the rookie, he falls one spot in NFL.com’s weekly RB Index compiled by nine-year veteran running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Harris currently sits at No. 8 in Jones-Drew’s RB Index, placing just ahead of Dallas Cowboys’ star Ezekiel Elliott at No. 9 and Los Angeles Rams’ veteran Sony Michel at No. 10.
“Harris has been a silver lining in a disappointing campaign for the Steelers’ offense,” Jones-Drew writes. “With two games to play, he can become the fifth player in NFL history with 1,000-plus rushing yards and 500-plus receiving yards as a rookie. He needs 16 rushing yards and 78 receiving yards to join the elite club.”
At times, Harris has been that silver lining in a rather disappointing offense. He’s not without fault though, often missing holes and trying to do too much overall, leading to negative plays rather than taking what’s there.
Aside from those minor gripes, it’s incredibly hard to find any type of fault with Harris overall in 2021. He’s running behind a rather rough offensive line, in a system with very little imagination or innovation, and just isn’t truly in a situation that puts him in the best possible position to succeed.
The debate about taking him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft will rage on forever, especially if the Steelers don’t quickly rebuild a woeful offensive line, but there should be few gripes about Harris’s performance on the field this season.