Steelers’ Najee Harris: The ‘Perfect’ Running Back?

Najee Harris

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces Najee Harris as the 24th selection by the Pittsburgh Steelers during round one of the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29, 2021.

If you’re one of the relatively small minority of Pittsburgh Steelers fans who questioned the team’s decision to use its first-round pick on running back Najee Harris, “Stop.”

That’s the message from Noah Strackbein of Sports Illustrated, who, after watching all three days of last week’s minicamp, noted that “Harris is clearly the best running back in Pittsburgh, is basically a wide receiver when he wants to be and has the confidence and charisma to be whoever he wants to be in this league. He’s not always perfect on the field, but sometimes he is. And I mean perfect.”

Mark Kaboly of The Athletic has also been impressed with what he has seen from Harris. In fact, he says the photo of the one-handed catch that Harris recently posted on social media was actually “much more spectacular” than the picture suggests.

Even video snippets of Harris doing routine drills are going viral on social media:

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All-Pro Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick: ‘I Love Najee’

Meanwhile, Steelers teammates haven’t been shy about talking up Harris—and how much they look forward to playing with him. First-team All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (who was also a teammate of Harris’ when both were at Alabama in 2017), says that the rookie first-round pick has already impressed members of the team’s defense.

“I love Najee,” said Fitzpatrick, appearing with Rodney Harrison on Safety Blitz. “As a player, he’s a competitor…. He’s fast, he’s challenging us out of the backfield, catching passes, going against the linebackers. He has that ‘you’re not going to outwork me-type mindset.’ That’s something we love having in the city of Pittsburgh.”

Anthony McFarland Ready to Take a Step Forward?

On a related note, the aforementioned Strackbein also notes that second-year running back Anthony McFarland Jr. “looks like he’s made a pretty good jump from year one to year two,” which is good news for a club that would like to see one of a handful of candidates step up and grab the No. 2 running back job.

McFarland—who was selected by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft out of Maryland—is competing against third-year man Benny Snell Jr., fourth-year veteran Jaylen Samuels and free agent acquisition Kalen Ballage, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins (in the fourth round in 2018), but most recently played for the Los Angeles Chargers.

At the moment, Snell and McFarland seem the leading contenders to be the RB2, though Ballage cannot be counted out just yet. Last season Snell carried the ball 111 times for 368 yards and four touchdowns. McFarland totaled 33 attempts for 113 yards, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Ballage had 88 carries for 290 yards and three touchdowns as a member of the Chargers.

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