The Pittsburgh Steelers hit the jackpot in the 2021 NFL draft. In an age where analytics bloviators decided that running backs are a dime a dozen, the Steelers selected Najee Harris, who’s proved to be a difference-maker with a skill set similar to that of former Steelers great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Franco Harris.
Earlier in the season, the announcers couldn’t even get his life story right.
In the Steelers’ 26-14 win over division rival Cleveland on “Monday Night Football,” Harris rumbled for a career-high 188 yards. Now his name is ringing bells. He displayed the elite power and vision which made him the No. 1 running back recruit in the class of 2017 out of Antioch High School in the Northern California city of Antioch.
That combination of speed, power and durability also helped him become the all-time leading rusher in Alabama Crimson Tide history. His statistical accolades complement his two national championships and the 2020 Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top tailback.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) January 4, 2022
On a night that was all about Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game at Heinz Field, Harris stole the show. The sadness of Ben’s departure after two decades of excellence was tempered by the optimism inspired by Harris’ performance this season. There’s a future in Pittsburgh and they won’t have to abandon their ground-and-pound culture to stay contenders.
What a game 🙌@steelers win, you win‼️ Shop now ⬇️
— Steelers Pro Shop (@SteelersShop) January 4, 2022
Najee Breaks Franco’s Mark That Stood For 50 Years
Harris toted the mail 28 times and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. He produced a league-best 181 yards after contact on Monday night alone. That’s an illustration of the great balance and power he possesses. The total brought his season rushing stats to 1,172 yards.
Najee Harris on the win over the Browns, Ben Roethlisberger and more. pic.twitter.com/rB6t1rnDvN
— Steelers Live (@SteelersLive) January 4, 2022
In his postgame presser, Harris had this to say about his career night:
“This was a better game for rushing, I think we were averaging 5 yards per carry. We need to keep this going into Baltimore. Not every game is going to be perfect, but there’s obviously some games like this. … Give a big shout to the offensive line.”
Steelers offensive line coach Adrian Klemm left last Monday to become the offensive line coach at Oregon.
“They did a great job with the coaching staff changes,” Harris said. “They really focused up and executed their assignments.”
In 1972, Franco Harris rushed for 1,055 yards in 14 games. For his efforts he was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. His play also helped the Steelers win their first division title.
Franco seemed to be impressed by Najee’s accomplishments against the Browns, and he even took to Twitter to let it be known.
“It was great to watch a running back make plays,” Harris said. “Keep it going O line!”
— Franco Harris (@francoharrishof) January 4, 2022
Franco is 15th on the all-time rushing list with 12,120 yards. He retired much higher up on the list. Franco was a huge part of his era’s Steelers dynasty winning four Super Bowls, he was a Super Bowl MVP, made nine Pro Bowls and three All-Pro Teams. So if there’s someone who understands the importance of a great back it’s “Franco 32.”
Najee Harris Gives Credit To His Team: Same Thing He Always Did At Alabama
Najee has always been a player who deflects praise and is quick to give it to his teammates. He did it often at Alabama, and following his performance on Monday night he was at it again. The Rookie of the Year candidate praised his offensive line for their great blocking and his teammates as a whole for their efforts on his big night.
“It’s an old record, so it’s always an honor. But for me to personally say I did it all by myself is selfish in a way. I really appreciate what the line did, and the receivers and Ben. They all played a part. I appreciate them more than anything. Franco, of course, was a great Steeler, a great football player, a great person.”
No one knows if Najee will accomplish all that Franco did in his illustrious HOF career, but based on his rookie season efforts he’s definitely on the right path.
Steeler Nation, y’all got a damn good football player and even better human being in “Najee22.”
More news from our partners: