If you’ve been around Steelers football for many years, you know they’ve traditionally been a team that’s heavily predicated on playing smash-mouth football with a powerful running game and playing a physical brand of defense. The ground game has always been vital playing in Pittsburgh, as the howling winds and winter elements of Heinz Field go hand-in-hand with the great lineage at running back that the team has seen. From franchise greats like Franco Harris, Bam Morris, and Jerome Bettis to recently guys like Le’Veon Bell and Najee Harris, the team has seen its share of talented power backs, with Harris the latest in a long line.
Coming off a successful rookie year in which his 1,200 yards eclipsed Franco’s rookie rushing record of 1,055 yards set in 1972, what might be up next for an encore for the younger Harris? Well first, much has been made lately of his playing weight, as he’s now a reported 244 pounds, up from his listed weight of 232 last season. However, Harris spoke earlier with 93.7 The Fan to let the fans at home know that his weight hasn’t actually changed much at all. In fact, he hasn’t weighed 232 since Alabama’s dismantling of Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl in early 2021. Last season, he played at 242 so he’s only added two pounds since then, and he let the media have it in a comical session.
“It wasn’t a big, you know, ‘Cool, I’m bigger than Jerome Bettis,” Harris said laughing, according to 93.7 The Fan. “No, I was NOT. Shout out to Jerome though cause that’s the homie but Goddamn, y’all making it seem like I’m just fat as hell.”
The added two pounds shouldn’t be much of an issue at all, as it appears to be nothing but muscle, judging by the size of Harris’ quads in some photos from OTA’s. The aforementioned Bell came into the league weighing 235+ pounds as well, but he quickly shed some of that unnecessary weight, and playing in that 220-pound range saw him blossom into an All-Pro talent. Head coach Mike Tomlin has long been a fan of employing one workhorse running back, and obviously has coached Bell, along with the likes of James Conner, among others. Harris even noted some light-hearted ribbing on behalf of his coach about his added weight.
“He’s always messing around like, ‘oh, I bet I weigh more than you today’. He doesn’t care as long as I can move with it, then it’s good. But it becomes an issue when I can’t move around with it and I look sluggish, but I feel good out there, man. So that’s all that matters.”
With the offense breaking in a new quarterback, Harris will definitely look to be the face of that unit. And couple that with an offensive line that the front office took several measures to improve via free agency, and Harris should definitely find more open running lanes. One guy who’s often viewed as a measuring stick for Harris is the Titans’ Derrick Henry, and the similarities definitely exist between the two. Both possess a similar stature and both obviously played for the Crimson Tide. Harris has a long way to go to achieve some of the success that Henry has had, but all the ingredients are indeed there. Here’s to hoping the remade offensive line can hold up their end of the bargain and take steps forward next season, as Harris was creating yards on his own more often than not in 2021.