Regrets. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a few. From passing on Dan Marino in the 1983 draft to notorious draft busts like wide receiver Limas Sweed, tackle Jamaine Stephens and linebackers Jarvis Jones and Huey Richardson, Pittsburgh has had its fair share of picks they’d do over if they could. Every franchise does.
At the end of his run in Pittsburgh, which could come as soon as 2024, will Najee Harris be one of them? It’s far too early to tell, but for many Steelers fans and some media, the answer is already a resounding yes.
“It feels like [Najee] Harris isn’t the type of back you can build an offense around like [Saquon] Barkley or even Derrick Henry,” wrote Steelers Wire’s Curt Popejoy. “He’s incredibly physically gifted, but he isn’t incredibly talented. Until his skills catch up to his physical tools, he’s doing to be a guy who compiles stats in chunks but won’t be a player who can take over a game.”
But it wasn’t all too long ago that fans gushed over Najee Harris. After all, he brought Pittsburgh’s ground game back to life, setting franchise rookie records for rushing yards and all-purpose yards last season. But that was then, and this is now: 83 attempts for 264 yards and a touchdown. That’s an average of three yards per carry. To his credit, Harris has two additional receiving touchdowns, one of which was Kenny Pickett’s first score through the air.
Steelers Fans React to Najee Harris’ Down Season
Blitzburgh put it best when they tweeted, “Shocked to see how quickly many of Yinz turned on Najee Harris.”
The NFL is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and lately, Najee Harris hasn’t done much.
What’s Wrong with Najee Harris?
Najee Harris had very little offseason training with the Pittsburgh Steelers. On August 1, less than a week into training camp and the first day of pads, Harris got what was described by Mike Tomlin as his “foot stepped on.” The injury caused him to miss most of camp and two of three preseason games.
It turned out later that the injury was worse than Tomlin led on. Following his first and only preseason game versus the Detroit Lions, Harris revealed he’d suffered a substantial injury.
“To give everyone the update, I never did just get my foot stepped on,” Harris shared with Steelers media on August 29. “I had a sprained Lisfranc. That’s why I was out for the majority of the camp, so to get back in the motions of stuff like that, I felt really rusty. I wasn’t too happy about my performance. I had a bad read on one run and the false start I would say.”
According to Steelers Nation, a study published by The National Library of Medicine stated that 92.9% of NFL players who suffered a Lisfranc injury returned to play in the league but missed a median of about 11 months of action.
It’s believed that Harris returned to action sooner because his injury was described as a sprain and not a fracture. He hasn’t been effective, but the line’s run blocking has been subpar, and the offense can’t sustain drives.
In the fourth quarter of the Steelers’ September 11 matchup versus the Bengals, Harris sustained an ankle injury.
On October 14, Harris shared he’d been playing with a steel plate in his shoe. The plate was removed a few days before the Steelers’ win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Harris declared himself 100 percent.
Even players who fully participated in offseason training are rusty heading into the first live game action of the regular season.
It’s unfair for Steelers fans to turn so quickly on Najee Harris. Harris needs time to get into a groove like anyone who’s sustained an injury.