Najee Harris must be ecstatic over the Steelers 2023 draft class

Steelers, Najee Harris
Steelers, Najee Harris / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how you view the Steelers 2023 draft, you can't deny that the Pittsburgh Steelers were able to beef up the offensive line by adding Broderick Jones, Darnell Washington, and Spencer Anderson.

We have to assume that Najee Harris is smiling. Why not? They got talented and big guys to put on the offensive line this season. Broderick Jones comes to the Steelers at 6’5” and 311 lbs. Darnell Washington is 6’7” and 264 lbs. Spencer Anderson is 6’4” and 305 lbs. They all play the Steelers brand of smashmouth football that Steelers fans have come to love.

Fans have much to be excited about with the addition of these three players, certainly, Najee Harris should be equally excited. Sure, when you get big guys up front, you think about what it means to the quarterback, it’s a valid concern. So while these guys will certainly help protect Kenny Pickett up front, you would have to assume they will help transform the Steelers rushing game and take it to a new level.

How will Steelers draftees help Najee Harris?

 Najee Harris did have a great rookie season, with 1200 rushing yards and 467 reception yards. On the stat line, it looks impressive. When you watch the games, though, it wasn’t flashy; he didn’t bust open a 75-yard rush for a touchdown. His longest rush was only 37 yards. He hit 1200 yards from being a workhorse with 307 rushes and another 74 receptions.

But, despite his success, there were additional criticisms that even continued into 2022. First, he didn’t hit the holes; he paused and hesitated at times. A second criticism that came up in 2022 is he would run the play as designed right up the backside of the offensive lineman.

While both criticisms are accurate and fair, one must keep in mind that the Steelers run blocking was that bad in 2021 and 2022 to one degree or another. No one out there thinks the Steelers had a great offensive line in any fashion.

Well, the Steelers GM Omar Kahn knew it, as did head coach Mike Tomlin. So what did they do in the draft? They got tackles and a tight end. Was it specifically to protect Kenny Pickett no, it was to open the lanes to give Najee room to rumble in hopes a stronger rushing attack would open up the passing game a bit.

If your team moves the ball on the ground at will, defending the pass is harder because you have to respect the running game. If you move the ball on the ground and the defense can not stop it, where they get into trouble is determining if it’s a run or passing play.

If they catch a defense flat-footed and they commit to thinking it’s a run play, then somewhere downfield Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, or Pat Freiermuth is wide open. It would be hard to think these holes won’t be there in 2023.  

In conjunction with the guys they got in the draft and signed as free agents, the Steelers offensive line, without question, should be much better. Najee could probably have his breakout season. Open these holes; there is much less wear and tear on Najee.

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While we have not heard Najee comment on the Steelers new additions, you would think his sentiment would be similar to the ones expressed by the late Myron Cope when he was a commentator “I love it, I love it”