Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers are deep into the season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: RB Najee Harris
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: The second-year running back is coming off of arguably his best game of the season, rushing for 111 yards on 22 carries and catching two passes, including a game-winning touchdown. He ran with immense physicality and has stepped up to the plate since the bye week when being asked to shoulder an increasingly large share of the load for this offense.
Whether or not the Steelers should have used a first-round draft pick on a running back in taking Najee Harris in 2021 is as much a philosophical one as anything. But I don’t think there’s any debate about the fact that he displayed first-round talent in his performance on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
While he didn’t break the game open with any huge plays—his longest gain was all of 15 yards—he was a consistently positive contributor throughout the night and a driving force for the offense. And that doesn’t even do justice to what he was actually doing.
Perhaps Harris’ most remarkable quality as a runner is his combination of anticipation and body control. Watching him run on Sunday night, I saw him contorting his body in ways 240-pound individuals ordinarily shouldn’t be able to while visually preparing himself to make his next move to avoid another defender. It had me thinking about Barry Sanders for a moment.
He rushed for a season-high 111 yards against the Ravens, his first 100-yard game of the year, on 22 carries. His workload has picked up steadily since the bye week in spite of the fact that Jaylen Warren’s volume has not diminished because of it.
They simply have been running the ball more effectively, and thus running the ball more as a result. A lot of that is a credit to the offensive line, undeniably. But it’s also been a tangible improvement from Harris himself as the year has gone on.
Comparing the second half of his season to the first only makes it more clear how significant his foot injury was, stemming from training camp. He didn’t have this same short-space maneuverability that Sunday night’s game highlights. Right now, he’s looking like someone who can carry the Steelers into the postseason on his shoulders.