It should be early on Monday night when running back Najee Harris becomes just the second rookie in Pittsburgh Steelers history to top 1,000 rushing yards. He has a fair shot at breaking Franco Harris’ rookie franchise record of 1,055 rushing yards as well, if he has a good game.
Now that he’s at the doorstep of hitting one of his season-long goals of reaching 1,000 rushing yards, however, he’s realizing that it’s not enough. It’s a sense of accomplishment to his quadruple digits, but as he told reporters about being near the mark, it’s not so much reaching 1,000 yards, “It’s how you go about the 1,000 yards”.
The rookie was dealt a bad hand this year as far as being able to successfully run the ball is concerned. The reasons for this are well-documented, so we don’t need to belabor it, but there certainly was a lot of change from last season of dubious value and quality, and clearly not all of it panned out.
But what he does enjoy about hitting the 1,000-yard mark is not so much the mileage, but the trips. He’s sitting at 984 yards, but it’s come on 268 carries. And on top of that, he has a league-high 335 touches, on 862 total offensive plays. That’s a lot to look back on.
“One thing I could take away is the amount of film I got to improve for next year”, he said as he downplayed his accomplishment. “That’s the one good thing about having 1,000 yards. There’s a lot of plays where I can get better and do better at. There’s a lot of film I have on myself, so I can improve a lot better. I don’t think it’s so much about the yards, but just my plays, of what I could get better at”.
Could he have offered a better answer than that? Frankly, even if he had an excellent and efficient season in getting to those 1,000 yards, that’s still the sort of answer that anybody should love to hear out of an athlete and a competitor.
That’s the sort of thing we have been hearing out of Harris since he arrived in Pittsburgh by way of Alabama when they drafted him in the first round back in April. Many have questioned the positional value of that decision, but they certainly brought in the right type of person into the organization.
Needless to say, said organization has its work cut out for itself in trying to surround Harris with the framework to build a better run game, starting with addressing the offensive line, who will be blocking, who will be coaching—even who will be calling the plays, or at least designing the run game.
Harris could be hitting the 1,000-yard mark several weeks earlier around this time next season if they do hit those changes. There’s no reason he can’t have a much higher success rate on his carries than he has been able to get, if they can address their shortcomings along the offensive line and in other areas holding back the ground game.