Please, compare Najee Harris to the last Steelers 1st round RB

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34)
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall (34) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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The Steelers should have learned from this

Whenever I, or anyone for that matter, seem to critique Harris, two justifications for him come up. The first and most common is that the line he plays behind is awful. While that may be true, it isn’t like the line for Mendenhall was this stalwart unit that opened wide holes for him to run through.

The offensive line is a far more important factor in a back's success. The team would have been better off selecting Brown in the first back in 2008 and a lineman in 2021 over Harris. Giving whoever the running back is an elite line to work behind will make them better. It also will help keep the quarterback upright.

The second argument just points to the raw stats and claims Harris is a good pick. Beyond the extra game that has a small tick in getting Harris over 1000 rushing yards, he has also been given ample opportunities to rush the ball. He has rushed the ball 579 times since entering the league, which has greatly impacted how his stats look.

His efficiency is similar to Mendenhall’s, as neither were overly effective with the ball in their hands and were just plodders instead. Each racked up multiple 1000-yard seasons which look good on paper, but neither has become true stars or difference makers for their respective offenses.

Yet Mendenhall is lambasted as one of the worst picks of the Kevin Colbert era. The 2008 class in general is seen as one of the worst classes for the Steelers as a whole, and Mendenhall is the headline for that group. Search up a ranking of worst Steelers first-round picks under Colbert and Mendenhall is consistently up there.

Say anything bad about Harris, however, and you have a mob of yinzers ready to defend him. I just don’t get it. The idea of a throwback running back is fun, but in an NFL that features dynamic passing attacks, it isn’t needed anymore. This is especially true when you had greater needs at more important positions.

I fully expect Harris to post his best statistical season in 2023. Frankly, he better, as the interior of the line is rebuilt which should aid in his power rushing. Unless I see him become this true threat though, he won’t live up to the first-round billing. His position isn’t that valuable and Harris isn’t an elite player on top of it.

dark. Next. Steelers are given mediocre grades for most of their free agent signings

If Harris is a good first-round pick then you should be saying the same about Mendenhall. Both backs played behind lackluster lines and posted marginal stats boosted by their workload. The gap between the two isn’t that big yet the fan recognition is.