Steelers Urged to Shop RB Najee Harris Before NFL Trade Deadline

Najee Harris

Getty USA Today's For the Win's Cory Woodroof argued the Pittsburgh Steelers should consider trading running back Najee Harris.

The Pittsburgh Steelers netted promising young cornerback Joey Porter Jr. as a result of dealing third-year wide receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears at the NFL trade deadline last year. Could the Steelers repeat history in 2023?

USA Today’s For the Win’s Cory Woodruff argued that general manager Omar Khan should consider it with third-year running back Najee Harris.

“This might seem a little surprising, but the Steelers might want to transition running back Jaylen Warren into that starting spot and consider sending Harris to a team that could better utilize his talents,” wrote Woodruff.

“Harris hasn’t quite been the thousand-yard rusher we’ve gotten used to this season, and it’d be very easy to see a Super Bowl-caliber team calling up the Steelers and seeing if Harris is available.

“Pittsburgh could probably get a second-round pick in return, and some team would get a proven running back in Harris to help a postseason run.”

Harris has rushed for 247 yards in five games this season. He has averaged 3.9 yards per attempt and 49.4 rushing yards per game.

That puts Harris on pace for a career-low 840 rushing yards.

Reasons Steelers Could Pursue Trading RB Najee Harris

The idea of the Steelers moving on from Harris isn’t all that surprising. He’s been a solid running back, but not a generational guy the team was hoping they would get when they picked him at No. 24 overall in the 2021 NFL draft.

Additionally, instead of getting better, Harris has been declining from a statistical perspective. As a rookie, he made the Pro Bowl with 1,200 rushing yards and 74 receptions for an additional 467 yards. During that season, Harris led the league with 381 touches.

Last season, Harris saw his carries and touches drop. As a result, so did his production. Harris had 1,034 rushing yards with 41 catches and 229 receiving yards.

In 2023, Harris is not only on pace to fall short of 1,000 rushing yards for the first time, he’s not on track to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage. The Steelers are barely using him in the receiving game, as he has 5 catches for 37 yards.

The Steelers could have Harris under contract for two more seasons. But part of why they received a second-round pick for Claypool was moving the receiver with still a year remaining on his rookie deal.

The opportunity for other teams to have Harris through the 2025 season could make the running back attractive for not just contenders this season but many other teams.

Trading Harris now also allows the Steelers to avoid a potential contract dispute with the running back, which was an issue for the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders this offseason.

Of course, trading Harris is also possible because the Steelers have Jaylen Warren to fall back on. Warren has been more successful at popping longer runs and is more involved in the Steelers passing game.

Why the Steelers Probably Won’t Trade Their Starting RB

While a Harris trade for the Steelers makes some sense on paper, there are also plenty of reasons why it likely won’t happen.

For one, there’s no indication he’s become a problem for the team. ESPN’s Brooke Pryor  reported on September 8 that Claypool was the source of “internal discord” in Pittsburgh and even suggested that the receiver was at least partially to blame for the team’s poor start last year.

Since trading Claypool, the Steelers are 10-4.

Furthermore, unlike with Claypool, Pittsburgh can apply a fifth-year option to Harris’ rookie deal because he was a first-round pick. The Steelers may not be willing to give up on the running back with potentially still two years left on a relatively affordable deal.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Steelers are competing for a playoff spot this season. When they traded Claypool last year, they were 2-6 and appeared to be headed for Mike Tomlin’s first losing season.

Heading into Week 7, they are 3-2 and in the mix of the AFC North race. It wouldn’t make sense for the Steelers to trade Harris if they intend to make a playoff push, and every indication suggests they do.

Harris and Warren is Pittsburgh’s best 1-2 punch in the backfield in a long time. The Steelers are likely to kept the duo together to see if they can help the team get on a winning streak this season.

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