Najee Harris has generally been a lead-by-example guy. Work hard, be a professional, show that extra effort on the field. But he isn’t as much of the rah-rah, give the speech that Hollywood would love kind of dude. With a large leadership void created for 2022, Harris knows he’ll need to change his approach.
Harris joined Sirius XM Radio Sunday to talk about some of his goals for next season.
“The main thing that’s sticking out I guess is me being a more of a leader of the team,” he told the show. “Me being more vocalized as a leader. My one year there, I found out what the Steeler Way is.”
There’s a leadership vacuum on the offensive side of the ball. Just two years ago, those leaders were obvious. Maurkice Pouncey. David DeCastro. And of course, Ben Roethlisberger. The old-heads who knew what it took to thrive in the NFL, individually and collectively, and how to help the young guys who came up through the system. Those guys are all gone. Now, it’s a group of relatively young and new faces, guys like Dan Moore Jr, Diontae Johnson, Pat Freiermuth, and Harris himself.
But Harris quickly shed that rookie label. The Steelers’ bellcow, he was thrown into the deep end of the pool and kept his head above water. He’ll enter year two feeling a lot older than being a sophomore.
“Just really keeping that standard of what the Steeler Way is. Helping the young guys who are coming up.”
Harris then paused and realized he’s saying all that as a guy who doesn’t turn 24 until March.
“Well, still me too. Because I’m still young. But helping [others] know the Steeler Way.”
Harris finished his rookie season as the Steelers and league’s workhorse back, rarely leaving the field while leading the league in touches, the first rookie to do so in two decades. He finished 2021 with exactly 1200 yards and while his per-carry numbers look poor, just 3.9 per attempt and 4.4 per touch, his yardage was all hard-earned.
He’ll need a repeat performance in 2022, hopefully with improved pieces around him, while bettering himself as a leader. Those type of guys can’t always become the vocal, rally-the-troops type, leadership style is hard to fake and evolve, but there’s no doubt he’ll have to step up the way that he leads in that locker room next season.