Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris doesn’t want to be limited in any way this year. There’s one big motivating factor behind this.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected a running back with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, there was never a doubt that he was going to be the bell-cow back for this team. During his rookie season, Najee Harris touched the ball every bit as much as we anticipated.
During his college years at Alabama, Harris combined for a whopping 718 total touches on offense — the majority of which came in his final two seasons for the Crimson tide in 2019 and 2020. For the Steelers last year, Harris touched the ball a remarkable 381 times on offense during his rookie season, according to Pro Football Reference.
Collectively, Harris already has 1,099 carries between college and his first season in the NFL. But don’t tell him that he needs to limit his workload. During a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Harris was asked about how many times he touches the ball over the course of the season.
"“I can get 500… I didn’t have an issue with it. It was the media who had an issue with it. I told them every game, I was like, ‘Man, look, if this is the way of winning, I can carry the load.’ I trained to carry loads. It’s not something that I haven’t done before. I did it in college, high school, you know what I mean, NFL.”"
Najee Harris clearly has no beef with how many times he is asked to touch the ball on offense, and I can think of a few million reasons why.
Touches means money for Steelers RB
Because Najee Harris was able to put up nearly 1,700 scrimmage yards as a rookie, he has certainly drawn the attention of teams around the league. However, inefficient he might be behind a poor Steelers offensive line at times, these raw numbers really stand out.
In his first season, Harris recorded 1,200 rushing yards on the dot to go with 7 rushing touchdowns. He also chipped in 74 receptions for 467 yards and 3 scores through the air.
These numbers are going to give Najee’s agent some great talking points in just a few short years. When it comes to getting contract extensions, we know that agents use production to argue how much their client is worth. If he keeps up at this rate, Harris will be the highest-paid running back in the NFL in just a few seasons.
Obviously, Harris is betting on himself staying healthy. While I would argue that a running back with 350+ touches per season should have decreased value on his second contract (thanks to a poor RB shelf life and ride at the top), it simply doesn’t work that way on the negotiation side of things.
The agent is going to point to the fact that Harris has earned multiple 1,000-yard seasons and ‘X’ amount of Pro Bowl appearances when searching for his next deal.
We don’t have to worry about a Najee Harris extension until a few years down the road, but I wouldn’t want my touches decreased either if I knew my new-money value was tied to my raw production numbers. Harris will continue to feed in the backfield and he will be rewarded handsomely for it soon enough.