Najee Harris is looking to build off a solid rookie year, one that saw him immediately become the Pittsburgh Steelers’ workhorse back. Year Two offers the chance for that classic sophomore leap and Good Morning Football host Kyle Brandt believes Harris will do it.
In a roundtable discussion Friday, Brandt believes Harris will lead the league in rushing this year.
“He led the NFL in touches as a rookie,” he said. “We don’t fumble, we are our strong, and we have an offense that is suddenly led by Mitch Trubisky or Kenny Pickett…no, Najee Harris is leading this offense.”
Brandt is right that Harris should be even more the focal point of the Steelers’ offense a year ago. Ben Roethlisberger is out, a rookie and/or new quarterback is in, and for Pittsburgh’s offense to find some level of consistency, they must rely on their ground game, just as they did in Roethlisberger’s early years. Harris has already proven his talent and dependability, immediately winning the starting job last summer and breaking Franco Harris’ rookie rushing record by year’s end.
Much of that was created due to volume and his 307 carries, second most in the league only behind Indy’s Jonathan Taylor. But rushing yards is a volume stat and few backs should see the consistent workload like Harris will this year. As a rookie, he hardly left the field, logging 90% snaps in seven games. Twice, including Week 1, Harris didn’t miss a snap.
It all profiles as an old-school, old-soul running back makeup, a comparison Brandt made.
“This is a running back who should’ve been playing in 1991. And you give him 30 carries a game, he’s going to give you 140 yards. He looks like Ricky Williams out there. He is leading the league in rushing.”
Despite the high number of carries last year, Harris finished fourth in the league in rushing yards, 1,200 on the dot, and over 600 behind the leader, Taylor. Harris didn’t even lead his own division in rushing yards. Nick Chubb (1,259) and Joe Mixon (1,205) edged him out and will likely produce similar numbers in 2022. Chubb missed four games and still finished second in the league, so if there’s an AFC North runner to call a shot on, it’s probably him.
But there’s no question Harris will see the ball – a lot – again. It’s just a matter of if his body can handle another year of being “the guy.” No Steelers’ runner has played in every single game and led the team in rushing for consecutive seasons since Rashard Mendenhall did in 2009 and 2010.