Freiermuth Understands Need To Give Najee Harris A Breather, But ‘The More He Gets The Ball, The More Plays He Makes’

The question the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced this offseason regarding Pro-Bowl RB Najee Harris is how they will go about lightening his load to take excessive punishment this season after a 381 touch, 1,667 total yards campaign as a rookie, but still allow him to function as the team’s bell cow back and face of the offense.

The same question was posed to fellow 2021 draftee and current Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth as he reported to Latrobe for the start of training camp. According to Freiermuth, the team must be cognizant of the second-year back’s workload, but also allow the man to do what he does best and not take the ball out of his hands.

“I mean, obviously we want to protect Najee as much as possible, but obviously the more he gets the ball, the more plays he makes and the more electric he is and our offense is,” Freiermuth said to reporters Tuesday at Latrobe according to video posted by Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, who posted a video of Claypool’s interview on his Twitter feed.  “So, I think it’s a little bit of both.”

Right, wrong, or otherwise, this is a fair and logical answer by Freiermuth regarding Harris and his upcoming 2022 usage. On one hand, you want to preserve your first-round asset and not completely run Harris into the ground like the Steelers were forced to do last year due to not having any suitable depth behind him, having Harris account for 84% of the offensive snaps including playing all the snaps of his first professional game Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.

On the other hand, you want to maximize the investment you made by taking Najee Harris in the first round to be the workhorse back he was drafted to be after he proved he was capable of taking on such a heavy workload last season. No other running back on the roster comes close to what Harris provides as a runner and receiver, making it a notable drop off in talent on the field any time he is pulled off to rest.

Freiermuth recognizes this, as well as many other members of the team who were asked the same question this offseason. If it were up to Harris, he would get all the touches he can handle, saying recently that he would take 500 carries if it meant the team was winning. That isn’t going to happen soon, and while it should be expected that Najee Harris will again be the workhorse back for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2022, it will be intriguing to see how Pittsburgh tries to incorporate other backs on the roster to try and spell Harris on occasion to keep him fresh this season.

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