No franchise in the NFL has more Lombardi Trophies in their display case than do the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s been a number of years since their last addition, granted, and they haven’t even gotten very close to another often since then, but they are nevertheless regarded as one of the most successful and stable franchises in football.
All that is well and good, but what fans care about in the present is what their prospects are of winning the Super Bowl now and in the near future. There is reason for optimism growing around a young new nucleus of players, though, particularly on offense, and that includes third-year running back Najee Harris.
“We’re a lot better where we are now than we were last year”, he said yesterday while out in Oakland to throw out the first pitch for the A’s, participating in a live broadcast. “That’s what I always tell people, and it’s the truth. Just to be a part of this organization and be in position to go to the playoffs and win Super Bowls and just to live up to that standard of winning is always something that’s been a part of me, and that’s something I just can’t wait to live up to”.
A first-round pick in 2021, Harris did get to experience the postseason as a rookie, earning a berth in week 18, only to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in round one. The Steelers narrowly missed the playoffs last season after finishing the year on a 7-2 run in the second half.
Last year was a major time of transition, however, in a number of ways, not the least of which being the quarterback position. Ben Roethlisberger retired after 18 seasons and in came Kenny Pickett in the first round. He is expected to take a major step forward in year two.
The plan is, of course, to have one Hall of Fame career bleed right into another and have yet another period of success and trophies under Pickett after Roethlisberger helped them add two more Lombardis to the trophy room. Harris and all the other players walk past them every day entering the building, a reminder of who they’re playing for—and what they’re playing for.
“It’s motivating. There’s a standard that we always like to live up to”, he said. “This year we’re excited about it. We’ve got a lot of new guys. We can’t wait to get after it. I’m over there at OTAs right now and we’re all coming together, we’re all bonding with each other”.
The offense is counting on significant growth from a number of second-year players, including wide receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, but they also added left tackle Broderick Jones and tight end Darnell Washington in the draft this year. The Steelers also added another starting lineman in free agency in Isaac Seumalo.
Harris, meanwhile, will be looking for his third consecutive 1000-yard rushing season. He should be primed for the best season of his career behind a stronger offensive line, provided that he can stay healthy. I’m sure he’s looking forward to running behind Jones and Washington.