One of the great undersung advantages of being a part of an organization such as the Pittsburgh Steelers is the opportunity to interact with greatness. At virtually any position you could imagine, the Steelers have some Pro Bowler or Hall of Famer who can come in and talk up the next generation of greatness at the position.
We’ve seen that with tight end Pat Freiermuth building a relationship with Heath Miller, for example. Recently, running back Najee Harris has gotten the opportunity to talk with Franco Harris a few times, most recently when the team announced the retirement of Franco’s number 32.
“Just to get notes from him, to take some notes from him is always a good thing because he’s an icon”, Najee told reporters on Friday, via the team’s website. “Especially in this city. When you walk down to the airport you’ve got a whole statue of him. Just to see that guy and see him doing well is amazing”.
Every running back with potential who has come into Pittsburgh since Harris retired has been compared to him. When you reach that kind of stature, you know that your legacy of greatness is secured. Le’Veon Bell was the most recent before the latest Harris, Najee, was brought into the fold last year.
“I’m a fan of Najee and what he did last year. He made me a fan”, he told reporters earlier this week during the announcement of his jersey retirement, via transcript provided by the team. “We know he’s doing great things as a running back and plus we know that he’s a great human being”.
The 13th-overall pick out of Penn State in 1972, Franco Harris was the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season, rushing for 1055 yards on just 188 attempts in a 14-game season, with 10 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 180 yards and another score, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors.
As for Najee Harris, he rushed for 1,200 yards, albeit on 307 carries, with seven touchdowns on the ground. But he also added another 467 yards on 74 receptions, adding another three touchdowns, totaling 1667 yards from scrimmage and finishing one shy of Franco’s team rookie record touchdown total of 11. He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
“I would hope everybody wants to do that at some point in their life, to leave good memories and stuff for people to remember you by”, Najee said when he was asked if he hoped to one day be remembered the way that Franco is today. “But I’m just worried about us winning against the Bengals”.
Big things are expected of the second-year back, who is anticipated to be the driver of the offense as the Steelers transition to a new era at the quarterback position following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. This is surely what the front office and head coach Mike Tomlin had in mind when they used their first-round pick on him a year ago. Drawing comparisons to Franco just one season into his career isn’t a bad start.