Najee Harris Reveals 3 Choices He Wants to Replace Ben Roethlisberger

Getty Najee Harris celebrates after a play.

After 18 seasons, the Ben Roethlisberger era is over in Pittsburgh, and it’s time to welcome in a new starter.

Steelers running back Najee Harris was lucky enough to play with Roethlisberger for one season and played with two collegiate greats in Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones at Alabama. He knows what a successful quarterback looks like.

“All of them has their own traits, all of them has their own talent,” explained Harris on CBS Sports HQ. “I think one thing that, for me, what I’m looking for is somebody who’s a grinder, willing to stay late and study and, and really learn the ins and outs of the playbook, maximizing his players on the team, you know, a leader.”

Harris went on to say he desires a quarterback who wants to win and is competitive just like him. “That’s what all those quarterbacks that I played with, that’s something that they had. You want a competitor. Not only will he drive himself to be good, but he’ll drive the whole team, and we’ll all come together and win games.”

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Who Fits the Mold For Harris?

“There’s names that pass my mind,” Harris shared. “I don’t really know the scenarios of everything, but we could… Deshaun Watson’s always in there. Aaron Rogers, obviously. I don’t know how close he’s coming to retirement. Even guys like, if we get Jimmy G., I like him, too.”

Najee Harris names THREE QBs he'd like to see take over for Steelers | CBS Sports HQSteelers RB Najee Harris joins CBS Sports HQ to discuss the team's future at QB, his rookie season and what's next for the franchise. SUBSCRIBE TO OUR CHANNEL: FOLLOW US ON: Facebook – Instagram – Twitter – #NFL #Steelers #NajeeHarris #BigBen #SteelersRumors2022-01-28T02:38:43Z

Jimmy Garoppolo is one of several quarterbacks linked to the Steelers through the grapevine. Rumors of Aaron Rodgers to Pittsburgh were hot a few months ago but have flamed out.

Even more important is who Harris didn’t name in the interview. He didn’t name Mason Rudolph. He didn’t name Dwayne Haskins. These guys are currently on the roster (though Haskins doesn’t yet have a contract for 2022), and he could’ve used this moment to throw his support behind one of them.

It speaks volumes that he didn’t.

Sure, Harris was just being his usual candid self — just shooting the breeze. But if Ben Roethlisberger was still his quarterback, you better believe Harris would’ve said Ben Roethlisberger. Until Rudolph isn’t the starter, he is the Steelers quarterback.

Harris also didn’t name any pending free agent quarterbacks, who, financially, would make more sense for the team right now. After all, it’s not just a quarterback Pittsburgh is lacking. They have needs to address along both sides of the line in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver, especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster likely out of there, along with James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud.

It’s doubtful the Steelers land any of Harris’ dream quarterbacks. None are free agents, so to acquire any one of them would cost a pretty penny. Pittsburgh won’t do that, nor should it.

Protecting the Ball

After three consecutive seasons with rushing totals in the bottom five of the NFL, there was a demand by team brass (ahem, Art Rooney II) to run the ball more. To do that, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted themselves a grinder in Najee Harris and saw an uptick in production.

According to Pro Football Reference, Pittsburgh ran the ball 38 times more this season (411) than in 2020 (373). And though the offensive line was in shambles, Harris did have success. The ground game produced 1,583 yards versus 1,373 yards in 2020.

What’s impressive is that Harris led in the NFL in touches (381) and touches without a fumble in the regular season. The discipline of ball protection dates back to Harris’ days at Alabama.

“Ball protection for me is really, really key,” Harris explained on CBS Sports HQ. “Ball protection for a running back should be important because if you’re a guy who wants to be a workhorse and wants to get the ball a lot ’cause you feel like you could be a game-changer, protecting the ball is huge, man.”

“You gotta have the organization and the coaches and the GM and the owners believe that he’ll take care of the ball if we give it to him,” said Harris. “So for me, that’s always big. I don’t wear no protections on my arms because I feel like that’s just a way that a fumble could happen.”

Only a fumble did happen when an elbow injury the week before forced Harris to wear arm protection in the January 16 Wild-Card game. Harris was wearing a sleeve covering the arm’s length when he lost his first career fumble at a critical juncture in the matchup.

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