While the Steelers as a whole are struggling, a former first-round pick is quickly looking more and more like a bust.
I will be the first to say that I was less than happy when the Steelers made the predictable selection of Najee Harris in the first round of the draft. Almost every number and stat points to the fact that an elite running back doesn’t yield an elite offense. While I was skeptical of the value of the pick, I did expect Harris to be a decent workhorse back for this team.
To this point, Harris has been one of the worst players on this struggling offense. He is slow to hit the hole and despite being a power back, he isn’t pushing many piles. The goal with taking Harris was for this offense to run through him once Ben Roethlisberger retired. Instead, he has been one of the many issues this team has struggled with this season.
Harris has been horribly inefficient
As of this writing, Harris has compiled 286 total yards and a pair of touchdowns. He is averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry on top of this. He fails to play to his strength more often than not. He has no speed, yet he tries to bounce runs to the outside far too often to make a big play. It hasn’t worked, and this rushing offense is miserable because of it.
Worse yet, an area I thought Harris would excel at, in the passing game, he has looked equally inefficient. He is averaging 4.9 yards per catch and receptions per game have nearly been halved. The proclaimed bell cow of this offense is playing akin to the Jonathan Dwyers and Issac Redmans of years past. That isn’t a good thing for a highly touted first-round pick.
Harris is being outplayed right now
For those of you that sum up all of Harris’s struggles to the offensive line or the gameplan, that simply isn’t true better. Neither of those aspects are perfect nor are they helping, but that hasn’t stopped Jaylen Warren from doing well so far this season. He has a healthy 4.9 yards per carry right now and looks far more decisive and explosive than Harris.
While sitting starters in blowouts aren’t uncommon, Harris seemed to come out extremely early in place of Warren. Part of that is to protect from injury, and another part is due to Warren being a great pass blocker, but that is a horrible look for the former first-round pick. The player you took to have this offense run through was sitting on the bench in favor of an undrafted rookie.
The Steelers missed on the Harris pick
Unless Harris became a dynamic back in the mold of Derrick Henry, taking Harris in the first round would have likely never gotten that first-round value out of the selection. With him struggling as much as he has though, he has bounced into the bust territory, as he is doing next to nothing to help boost this offense.
For those of you that ask who instead of Harris in the draft, the list is getting longer. There were quite a few cornerbacks that went off the board right after him that would have made sense. More importantly, two linemen went after Harris that stick out like sore thumbs. Creed Humphrey and Landon Dickerson both would have been great gets for this team to play center, yet Harris was the choice instead.
For anyone pointing out that Humphrey could have been selected in the second round, that is equally true. That said, Pat Freiermuth has excelled so far in his career, and I would rather have him than Harris. Likewise, both Humphrey and Dickerson are worthy of first-round picks. At least they are more deserving than Harris has been so far.
While there is still time for Harris to redeem himself, it seems unlikely at this point. He has been anything but an impact player so far in his career, and he is currently being outplayed by other options on the roster. As of now, he seems like another early miss for this team and a prime reason to blame for the offensive struggle so far this season.