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Najee Harris Calls Offense A Young Unit ‘Trying To Get To The Standard’

He may have had to come in through the back door, but Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris was a Pro Bowler in year one, after compiling more than 1600 yards from scrimmage and 10 scores, the most on the team.

He was one of the few bright spots on the offensive side of the ball, and among the most consistent, which isn’t to say that he didn’t have his own issues and growing pains to work through—a fact which he well knows. When asked to talk about his rookie season, he told Doug Gottlieb that it was a lot of learning, and a lot of challenges.

Harris was on radio row this week at the Super Bowl, appearing on numerous shows with the mission of highlighting his work with the American Cancer Society, but naturally, they talk football as well. He was asked to explain what the standard is—and pretty much said that they’re a team that’s not there right now.

This is how the Steelers are supposed to play. This is what it means to be a Steeler. This is the standard”, he said of what the oh so common Mike Tomlin aphorism means. “So, the standard is, never quit. You’ve always got to fight through the end, fight for everything. Nothing is given out here”.

The Steelers did post a winning record, and record the postseason, but in nearly any other metric, their performance during the season was really wanting. I could highlight the run defense first and foremost, but that would be too easy, and the offense had its own host of problems.

“This year, we had a lot of ups and downs, where we’re a really young team. We’re trying to get to the standard, on the offensive side, I guess I could speak for”, Harris said. “So for us, just keep learning, getting more experience”.

The first-round draft pick was one of four rookies who started all or most of the season on offense for the Steelers in 2021. In addition to himself, there was second-round tight end Pat Freiermuth, who scored seven touchdowns, third-round center Kendrick Green, and fourth-round tackle Dan Moore Jr.

Pittsburgh lost four offensive linemen from the 2020 season who were starters, in addition to their starting running back in James Conner. They had one of their top two tight ends retire, as well, though they were able to keep their wide receiver corps together, until JuJu Smith-Schuster was injured.

The hope is that last year’s class provided some of the building blocks for the foundation of the Steelers’ new offense, which is one that is now actively looking for its next foundational quarterback in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. Will the 2022 season see a bridge veteran as a starter? Perhaps a more notable, more permanent veteran solution? Might it be a draft pick? Or will it be Mason Rudolph?

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