Steelers’ Najee Harris Calls out Media for ‘Breaking Us Up’

Getty Steelers RB Najee Harris stands on the sideline.

The post-Ben Roethlisberger era has not gotten off to a good start.

It’s no secret the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is struggling. But it’s also nothing new. The team has an average ranking over five seasons of 22nd.

But the NFL is all about what-have-you-done-for-me-lately and, lately, it hasn’t been much. The numbers aren’t pretty. Pittsburgh’s offense is among the worst, ranking 31st overall, last in time of possession and 19th in points per game. The Steelers have scored just 21 points off touchdowns and, according to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analytics, are punting on a league-high 50 percent of their possessions.

As bad as coordinator Randy Fichtner’s offense was, the Matt Canada offense is worse.

Because the Steelers have shown little improvement through three games, players and coaches are getting it from all directions in post-game and post-practice interviews.

A particular question from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko hit a nerve in Steelers running back Najee Harris. Here’s the entire question for context: “You mentioned seeing some outside criticism of the O-line you don’t want to see, but there’s also been a lot on Mitch [Trubisky] and Matt Canada, of course, as the play-caller. How comfortable are you guys right now with what you’re doing offensively three weeks in with all the new faces?”

The question sent Harris off on a two-minute tangent.

“We’re really comfortable,” Harris said. “I think it’s just the social media and the interviews or interviewers like you guys, not trying to put you guys in that category, you guys are just making the — just kind of breaking us apart in a way. Because you guys keep asking questions like this.

“Like we’re at a point where we’re building right now,” he continued. “We’re working on it. But you guys come in here and ask questions of all the receivers and all the guys and Mitch about what is not working. That’s not how you build, and that’s not how you get better. You guys are breaking us up, and we need to find a way where we can just stay together and come together as a team and focus on what needs to matter most.”

Harris takes the stance of Hines Ward, who recently said the players need to be executing better.

“Play-calling . . . all that is fine. It’s just us executing. You guys keep blaming other people, it’s us in this locker room. We all need to come together and focus on what we need to improve on. Every week, every day we go out to practice. It’s not going to be perfect, but as long as the trajectory is going forward, that’s all that matters.”

Harris is frustrated with how poorly the team is performing versus its potential. And his passion showed in this response. But Harris appears to be letting the media get to his head. It’s their job to observe and ask questions. Harris, his teammates and coaches need to take a long, hard look in the mirror for the reason they’re not all on the same page.


Steelers Blame Game

Najee Harris might believe the media is tearing the Pittsburgh Steelers apart, but he blames himself for the lack of production.

As one of the Steelers’ offensive captains, he holds himself accountable and applauds the offensive line who’s been taking the brunt of it.

“It’s how much I need to improve, rather than how much we’re talking bad about the O-line everywhere,” Harris said in a Sept. 30 press conference. “It’s not the O-line. I think the O-line did a really good job last week. Really starting from the Patriots game, they did a really good job of controlling what they can control.”

Harris said his slow start is a matter of trust.

“It just comes down to me,” Harris admitted. “Really just me doing more and trusting them. I just need to trust them more. We’ve got some really good guys. They’ve done a really good job of getting better, and they are good. We do have a good O-line. Too much of what I see on social media is how bad they talk about our line. But it’s not. It’s me. We just need to stop focusing on them and focus on me. That is one thing I do what to address and put it out there.”

After a rough start, Pittsburgh’s renovated offensive line is starting to gel and has improved with each game. The unit jumped seven spots to 21st in Pro Football Focus’ weekly rankings.

Harris is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and is 42nd in the league with 128 yards rushing, according to PFF. If Harris is the problem, he’ll need to turn it around because it’s a very short season.

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