This season, Najee Harris has had trouble finding open running lanes, but he made up for it in the first quarter versus the Las Vegas Raiders.
Harris gained just nine yards on a short pass from Ben Roethlisberger, but it was a BIG nine yards. Harris put a nasty stiff arm on Abram and sent him to another planet. Abram is no slouch either; he’s known around the league as a fierce tackler.
ALL the latest Steelers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Steelers newsletter here!
Harris’ punishing move caught the eye of ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Daily Sports Dosage got some Derrick Henry vibes.
Murdering is illegal. Stiff arms are not.
WPXI Sports Jenna Harner suggests Harris sent Abram back a couple of decades.
Stiff Arms and Hurdles and Spin Moves, Oh My!
It’s no surprise that Harris’ first viral highlight as a Pittsburgh Steeler was stiff-arm action. Lauded for his power and balance after contact, Harris made a college career out of fending off would-be tacklers with jaw-dropping moves like that. Now he’s looking to make an NFL career out of it.
The Steelers wouldn’t have chosen just any running back with their first-round NFL draft selection. Size, vision and ability to make plays out of the backfield made Harris a perfect get for the Steelers — a talent too good to pass up.
Coming out of Alabama, Harris was the nation’s top running back for good reason — total touchdowns (57) and career rushing yards (3,843) were two Crimson Tide records among a laundry list of accomplishments.
Harris was part of Alabama’s backfield rotation since his 2017 freshman year, but he didn’t step into the starting role until 2019. He took the baton and ran with it, registering six 100-plus yard games and 20 touchdowns (13 rushing, seven receiving).
While Harris could’ve declared for the NFL draft following his junior season, he chose to stay at Alabama instead. Who knows what Harris’ fate would’ve been then — the Steelers didn’t have a first-round draft pick in 2020 after trading it away to the Miami Dolphins as part of the package for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Harris is Making Gains
However sexy they are, hurdles, stiff arms and spin moves are all just window dressing. A running back’s primary goal is to gain yards on the ground, and, so far, Harris is finding that ground to be bumpy.
The Steelers offensive line, overhauled with youth and inexperience during the offseason, is a work in progress. And the project will likely take longer than the remaining 15 games to perfect. At Alabama, Harris was spoiled by running behind a consistently top-ranked line during his career (per Football Outsiders).
Harris is making gains, though. According to ESPN, he finished with 81 yards from scrimmage (38 yards rushing, 43 yards receiving) and scored his first professional touchdown on a 25-yard catch-and-run. Harris’ 3.8 yards per carry were a full yard more than Week 1 (16 attempts, 45 yards).
Week 3 is a new opportunity for Harris to continue making strides. Pittsburgh will host AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals (1-1), a team that has surrendered 190 total ground yards to opponents.