1,000 yards rushing isn’t what it used to be. But for a running back, it’s a pretty number to hit. In an age of committees and injuries, fewer backs achieve that mark. Najee Harris needs 16 yards to reach that number. Speaking to reporters Friday, Harris said he had mixed feelings about hitting the mark in a year where the Steelers’ run game has sputtered and stalled.
“I sit in my house and I think about that too,” Harris told reporters in audio provided by the team. “I don’t know. I think it’s a good milestone, I don’t know if it will really mean something the way I got the thousand yards. It’s an ugly thousand yards, I guess you should say. But it’s a good milestone.”
Not all 1,000-yard seasons are created equal, and that’s surely true of Harris’ last couple. He went well over that mark his final two years at Alabama, rushing for nearly six yards per carry each season. This year, he’s averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. Of the 24 players with 150+ rush attempts this season, Harris’ yards per carry is fourth-worst, only beating out Mark Ingram, Myles Gaskin, and Alvin Kamara.
Put it this way. At Alabama last season, Harris had 1,466 yards on 251 carries. With 268 carries this season, he’s yet to crack the 1,000-yard mark. Volume is the reason why Harris will hit four digits this season, not efficiency. Every yard has been a hard-earned one.
And while Harris may be pressing and trying to do too much, many of the problems aren’t his fault. He’s running behind a bad offensive line that didn’t look great on paper even when they were healthy in the summer, much less when they’ve gone through five left guards and dealt with injuries across the interior offensive line. Harris has created value in other ways with his receiving, blocking, and overall effort.
While he is going to hit the 1,000-yard mark and probably still break Franco Harris’ rookie rushing record, Harris admits the milestone feels a lot different than he thought it would.
“When you’re there and you’re in the moment, it’s like, you just wanna do more than have a thousand yards. It’s how you go about the thousand yards. It’s more different than what you imagine now that I’m here and I’m close to it. I don’t know if it’s the same.”
The NFL trends for 1,000 yards are interesting. Only four players this season have hit that number, and roughly only a couple more have a chance, to reach that mark by season’s end. By comparison, in 2010, seventeen players hit that mark. In 2000, it was a whopping 23 of them.