The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: Where does Najee Harris rank among running backs entering his second season?
Running back is generally accepted as being perhaps the easiest position to come in and play right away, so it’s not overly shocking to see a rookie running back make the Pro Bowl as Steelers 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris accomplished a year ago, even if as an alternate.
Still, even with the accolades, that doesn’t necessarily clarify nor quantify exactly where he is positioned within the NFL running back hierarchy, such that it can be measured. And the fact that Derrick Henry missed the Pro Bowl because he was injured for most of the season helped, as well.
There are plenty of good running backs in the NFL right now, including Henry, Jonathan Taylor, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Nick Chubb, Ezekiel Elliott, Josh Jacobs, and so on and so forth. There are younger up-and-comers like J.K. Dobbins, and last year’s other rookies, Javonte Williams and the injured Travis Etienne.
Not many had an offensive line worse than what the Steelers had last year, though, nor a passing game as restrictive. Ostensibly, the Steelers should have made strides in both areas since last season, but we won’t know exactly how that will look until they start playing, so it’s hard to predict how that will materialize in Harris’ performance.
Is Najee Harris a top-five running back in the NFL right now? If not, will he be by the end of the season? He recorded not far from 400 touches during his rookie year for over 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, without a ton of help. A 2,000-yard season certainly isn’t outside the realm of reasonable expectations.