Trouble is brewing with Steelers RB Najee Harris

Did something with the approach to the ground game in preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals to piss Najee Harris off?

Najee Harris was quite vocal, along with several teammates, that he wanted things to change with the Pittsburgh Steelers offense — and it did. So, what gives?

While Jaylen Warren spoke glowingly about running backs coach Eddie Faulkner’s promotion, Harris did not. In fact, per ESPN’s Brooke Pryor, he flat-out refused to speak with Steelers media on Friday, indicating there’s some trouble brewing with the former first-round pick.

Did something with the approach to the ground game in preparation for the Cincinnati Bengals piss Harris off? A potential reason for his refusal is that Warren has overtaken him as the starter of the Steelers struggling offense. Chuks Okorafor was benched and has not played since his sideline outburst during the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8.

Harris’s comments were made after a game in which he logged a baker’s dozen touches for 36 yards. Warren had fewer attempts (nine) but did far more with them. The bulk of his 129 yards came on a 74-yard touchdown. He added three receptions on three targets for 16 yards.

“Starter” is just a label when it comes to these two. They’ve seen plenty of action since Broderick Jones was inserted into the line and run blocking improved.

But if Harris has been demoted or the plan is for Warren to get the lion’s share of the snaps, that’s enough for Harris to want the hell out of Pittsburgh.

Or maybe he’s just having a bad hair day.

Steelers RB Najee Harris says what everyone else is thinking

The Steelers record has been masking just how awful the team has been all season long, and Najee Harris knows it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers record has been masking just how awful the team has been all season long, and Najee Harris knows it.

“Record-wise, we’re good,” Harris said via Nick Farabaugh of Steelers Now. “You can do two things: You can look at the record and say we’re still good right now. Or you can look at the record and be like, if we keep playing this type of football, how long is that s–t gonna last? It’s a good record, but this is the NFL. Winning like how we did is not going to get us nowhere.”

In their second loss since the Week 6 bye, Pittsburgh’s offense sputtered. Kenny Pickett’s poor 160-yard performance was outdone by the ground game. Jaylen Warren had his second straight 100+ yard game (129 on six carries) while Harris chipped in 35 yards.

How long is this gonna last? The Cleveland Browns answered that before Harris even asked.

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A frustrated Ben Roethlisberger criticizes Najee Harris during Steelers-Packers game

Big Ben was critical of Najee Harris’s decision to hurdle Packers defender Rudy Ford.

Najee Harris has been hurdling dudes ever since he stepped foot on a football field. It’s his signature thing. When it works, it’s a thing of beauty. When it doesn’t, it’s a head-scratcher.

Defenders expect it now. Green Bay Packers safety Rudy Ford was ready when Harris attempted a scissor kick jump on a catch-and-run midway through the fourth quarter to convert on 2nd-and-10. Ford carried Harris on his shoulders before planting him firmly out of bounds.

The officials initially spotted the ball at the line to gain but then moved it back two yards as Mike Tomlin gave them an earful. On the next play, defenders flushed a moving Kenny Pickett out of bounds and forced a field goal.

It was frustrating to say the least, because if Harris had just kept trucking instead of theatrics, it would’ve easily been a first down and a new set of downs to find the end zone.

Watching Steelers-Packers with Merrill Hoge and “Footbahlin” producer Spence T’eo, Ben Roethlisberger was critical of the play.

“Here’s my thing: If Naj doesn’t jump this guy and instead puts his shoulder down and runs the guy over, he gets the first down. He jumps over him and gets carried, so he loses all his momentum. He’s 250-some pounds. Now that’s a big guy. Go! Run him over! Run that guy over, and you got the first down. Put him down and run him over, and you guarantee the first down. And you avoid this landing right here. Boom!”

It was Harris’s only blemish of the day, as he finished with 20 total touches for 96 yards and a score.

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Fanboy Najee Harris shares hilarious interaction with Rams’ Aaron Donald

Najee Harris was a bit star-struck going against Los Angeles Rams’ defender Aaron Donald.

Color Najee Harris a bit star-struck going against Los Angeles Rams’ defender Aaron Donald on Sunday.

“I was asking for his autograph,” Harris told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko after the game.

The interaction was a little one-sided, though. “He wasn’t talking to me, I was talking to him. I was like, ‘Hey AD, if you tackle me, that would be my dream.’ He didn’t say nothing. It was just me. I was just being a fan.”

Harris finished the day with 53 yards on 14 carries and three receptions for 15 yards. It was the most he’d been targeted in the passing game all season, and his rushing touchdown was his first of the season.

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Maybe Le’Veon Bell was right about Najee Harris

Najee Harris should take Le’Veon Bell up on his advice.

Najee Harris’ weight has been a hot topic since he entered the league in 2021. We’re obsessed with weight as a society, but in the NFL, it’s under even more of a microscope tied directly to on-field performance.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell knows just what taking some weight off between his first and second seasons did for him. As a 244-pound rookie in 2013, Bell rushed for 860 yards. After shedding 20 pounds, he put up a 1,361-yard performance and nearly doubled his receptions (45/83), which earned him Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors.

Bell talked about what Harris could do to improve his game on two separate occasions and both times advised that he lose weight.

“Sometimes it’s just the extra step, that’s all you need to take a run from two yards to about nine — just barely squeeze the hole,” Bell said on a September episode of Not Just Football with Cam Heyward.

“I think he’s a special runner. I think he can see the holes. I even think he knows how to set up runs. Some guys need a hole, some guys really need it, and some guys know how to finesse a run and know how to set it up to make something out of nothing, and he’s so good at that. And I think he can be even better if he’s a little lighter.”

Bell shared a similar sentiment on the Steel Here podcast in May.

A Harris fan, Bell isn’t trying to be critical, only offering words of wisdom based on his successful experience. Perhaps he should heed the advice this offseason, heading into what could be his final season in the Black & Gold. If results follow, it could mean cashing in on a lucrative contract — whether it’s in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Should Harris continue around his current 49 yards-per-game average, he’ll finish with a career-low 833.

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Steelers RB Najee Harris defends Matt Canada’s play calling

Steelers RB Najee Harris strongly believes the problem isn’t with the coaches.

At this point, there is so much finger-pointing going in when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, that it is getting hard to keep up. The Steelers offense has been brutal to watch this season but the reasons why it is this way and we’ve talked about all of them. But if you listen to running back Najee Harris, it’s about the players and people need to stop blaming the coaches.

Harris got defensive as he wrapped up his media time on Wednesday going to bat for the coaches. According to Harris, no one should be looking at the coaches as an outlet for why the offense has struggled so much.

Spoiler alert: Harris isn’t wrong. We can nitpick playcalling all we want but this team has played flat and lifeless for the majority of this season. And not just on offense. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky said the team needs to play with more heart and this is exactly what Harris is talking about.

Giving up on plays and letting bad plays carry over into the next play is something the coaches aren’t responsible for. These are highly paid grown men. They shouldn’t need coaches to convince them why it’s important to play hard every play.

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Why Steelers RB Najee Harris should bounce back vs. the Texans

2023 has gotten off to a painfully slow start for Steelers RB Najee Harris with no injury to blame.

The 2023 season has gotten off to a painfully slow start for Najee Harris. His numbers through three games are nearly identical to last year (40-128 to 35-139) when he played with a Lisfranc injury suffered late in training camp.

Steelers fans expect the best from Harris, and no one can blame them. After all, Pittsburgh spent its 24th overall selection on him in the 2021 NFL draft.

But there’s no injury (that’s been made public anyway) that he can use as a crutch.

Comparing Harris to his backfield mate Jaylen Warren is like comparing apples to bananas. Apples and bananas are fruits, and Harris and Warren are running backs — that’s where the comparisons end. They have totally different sizes and, thus, totally different styles of running, yielding contrasting results.

But the underwhelming offensive line, not unlike early in the 2022 season, isn’t doing Harris many favors. For all the talk in the offseason of the Steelers relying heavily on the ground game to take pressure off Kenny Pickett, it hasn’t happened. The unit was anticipated to be vastly improved over last year, even with the only change being guard Isaac Seumalo.

There’s simply nowhere to run through for Harris. When he gets the rock, he’s often running into bodies of loaded boxes and clogged lanes.

Despite Harris’ ineffectiveness through four games, he should have an opportunity to bounce back versus the Houston Texans tomorrow. The Texans are terrible against the run (353 yards allowed) and missing tackles galore (17).

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Najee Harris on Mike Tomlin’s message to Steelers: ‘Mike T just be talking s—‘

Steelers HC Mike Tomlin sent a message to his team this week and they responded.

Some mojo returned for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. It’s no midseason form, but most teams are still shaking off the rust from the offseason and trying to find their groove.

Despite being unable to get anything going, the Steelers were persistent in their attempts to run the ball versus the Raiders. It’s the only thing that kept Las Vegas honest. Bill Cowher’s philosophy was always about the attempts, and Mike Tomlin kept that going, feeding Najee Harris 19 of them. He ran mostly into piles but kept his legs churning for every inch he could muster.

Take that away, and Pittsburgh is one-dimensional. No one wants to witness Kenny Pickett forced into a position where he must win it through the air. Not at this point in his career.

But they pulled out a win, and Pickett had a nice performance versus the Raiders, the first multi-passing touchdown game of his career. Harris finished at a 3.42 average on 65 yards rushing yards.

In his weekly press conference on September 19, Mike Tomlin told Steelers media his team had lost their mojo and needed to rekindle it.

“Mike T just be talking s—,” Harris told Brooke Pryor about the comment. He took it as a challenge, and the Steelers responded with a win. They’re headed in the right direction, but consistency is what’s crucial here.

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Mike Tomlin not ready to crown Najee Harris the bell cow

There’s no denying it could be Jaylen Warren Time.

It’s been decades since drafting a running back in the first round was sexy. Now, when a team does, it’s criticized to the nth degree. The Pittsburgh Steelers did just that when they selected Najee Harris 24th overall in the 2021 NFL draft.

It’s no longer about who’s the better back; it’s about who’s more effective and that distinction goes to undrafted Jaylen Warren.

When asked how he plans to handle the running back snap distribution going forward, Mike Tomlin wasn’t his usual emphatic self in supporting his struggling star. His response leads one to believe Harris is no longer the back to get the lion’s share of carries.

“We acknowledge that Jaylen is a significant player and a guy that’s
capable of being a significant component of what we do, as is Naj [Najee Harris],” Tomlin said. “We’ll make decisions about how we divvy up the labor based on what’s most advantageous in an effort to create victory this week.”

“[Warren is] just making plays when given the opportunity. Here’s a guy that
did similar things as a rookie and has done some really good things in the team development process. It’s probably a natural maturation process for us to give him more opportunities for it to transpire in-stadium.”

This season is pivotal for the third-year back, as the Steelers have to decide in May if they want to pick up his fifth-year option (an additional year for first-round draft picks). Based on playtime, the cost projection from Over The Cap is $7.089 million and fully guaranteed once exercised.

A flat-out extension isn’t off the table, either. But for Harris, 25, to get either, he must put together games that don’t end in 60-yard (37.5 average so far this season) stat lines.

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Steelers RB Najee Harris reacts to captain honors snub: ‘We’re not tripping’

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris was a good sport about not being named one of the four 2023 team captains.

Athletes are ultra-competitive. It pumps through their veins and is part of what makes them good at what they do. So for any of them to play like stats, recognition doesn’t matter — they’re lying.

But Najee Harris, who wasn’t among the players voted by his teammates as a captain for the 2023 season, brushed it off.

“Kenny’s the quarterback. Kenny’s the guy,” Harris told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Brian Batko. “I have no issue with that. I don’t think anybody has an issue with there being one captain. As long as we win, we’re not tripping. It’s all a team sport.”

There’s no arguing it’s a team sport, and props to Harris for being a great teammate, but it had to hurt his pride a little bit after being one of the two offensive captains in 2022.

Mike Tomlin highlighted each captain in his weekly press conference on Tuesday and why Kenny Pickett was the sole offensive representative.

“[Kenny Pickett] being the lone captain on offense is obviously no disrespect to the leadership of others, but probably more reflection of everyone’s feel of his growth and development, not only as a player but as a leader within this collective, the team’s view of him and his growth and development,” Tomlin explained.

Not only is Pickett a captain in his first season as a starter, but it says even more about him that Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t voted captain until his fifth season.

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