While Najee Harris certainly has a fun and big personality in front of the media, Ben Roethlisberger sees him of having Heath Miller-esque qualities in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room. A hard worker, a lead-by-example player, and someone young players, even if Harris is still one himself, can watch and learn from.
Appearing on Pittsburgh’s local 102.5 WDVE Thursday morning, Roethlisberger discussed the impact Harris can have in the Steelers’ locker room, not just on the field.
“He’s got the ability to be a great leader for that offense,” Roethlisberger said. “And I could be completely wrong, I don’t know that he’ll ever be like a rah-rah, like a vocal like leader in that sense…I don’t wanna say he’s Heath Miller because Heath Miller didn’t really say anything. So it’s more than that, but it’s kind of a guy that is just, he’s gonna lead by example. When Heath talked, it was like, ‘oh, the Godfather’s speaking. Quiet. Listen.’ You know, like Naj is going to be a leader on that team.”
In terms of personality, comparing Miller and Harris is certainly a stretch but the two were young kids who made an immediate impact and knew when it was time to work. Playing in an era where the Steelers didn’t throw the ball much, Miler caught 39 passes for 459 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie, helping Pittsburgh win Super Bowl XL. He grew into a security blanket for Roethlisberger and one of the lowest maintenance players in team history, quietly going about his work, doing the dirty work like run blocking, and never seeking credit or glory.
Harris entered camp last year as an ultra-competitor and finished the season as their workhorse back, easily winning the starting job and rushing for 1,200 yards while leading the league with 381 touches. He’s poised to play a similar role this season. Perhaps even an increased one in the post-Roethlisberger era.
Roethlisberger believes Harris has a bright future as one of the game’s top backs.
“Naj is a player that is a good football player and he’s going to get better and he’s going to probably carry the load this year and he’s capable of doing that.”
Harris carried the ball 307 times as a rookie. If he reaches the 300-mark again in 2022, he’ll be just the fifth back in the last decade to do so, joining Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Zeke Elliott, and Derrick Henry, the most recent man to do so in 2019-2020. Pittsburgh needs a healthy and efficient Harris to be the focal point of their offense while needing an offensive line that can create more holes than they did last year. They’re also in need of leaders and Harris figures to fill that gap, too.