Ranking Steelers Najee Harris among starting running backs in the AFC North

The AFC North is full of outstanding running backs; Where does Steelers RB Najee Harris fall in that group?
Najee Harris is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh.
Najee Harris is entering his fourth season in Pittsburgh. / Jane Gershovich/GettyImages

The AFC North is full of talented skill position players and the running back position features some of the best in the game. After ranking the quarterbacks in the division in my last article, I now turn my attention to the backfield.

With so many talented backs and new faces in the division, where does Najee Harris rank? I'll only be ranking the starting running back on each, so backups and depth of the room will not factor into this ranking. With that being said, let's get started.

4. Zack Moss, Cincinnati Bengals

For the first time since 2017, the Bengals will have a new starter in the backfield.

After trading longtime starter Joe Mixon to the Houston Texans, the Bengals signed Zack Moss to a two year contract. Moss played last season with the Indianapolis Colts, putting up his best statistical season. He had 183 carries for 794 yards and 5 touchdowns in 8 starts.

Moss has been mostly used as part of running back tandems during his career, as he's played 53 games but only has 8 starts. This will be an opportunity for him to get the most reps of his career and thrive in a friendly offensive scheme. Moss had 27 receptions last season and the number should increase in head coach Zac Taylor's system. Mixon had 52 receptions last season.

Moss is a fine running back, but he's yet to prove he can carry the load as a RB1. And in a division flush with talented running backs, there was no other spot on this list that made sense for Moss.

3. Derrick Henry, Baltimore Ravens

I already know I'm going to catch some flack for this ranking. Some people may be shocked to see "King Henry" as my third ranked running back in the division. Trust me, I have my reasoning.

Henry had another great season last year with the Titans. He had 280 carries for 1,167 yards and 12 touchdowns. The former offensive player of the year has been a consistent top 5 running back in the league for 5 years now and is known for his power rushing style. In an offense that likes to run the football, Henry will be a good fit. So why is he ranked third on this list?

This list is projecting how these players will play in 2024 and beyond. And the fact of the matter with Henry is that he's 30 years old and has over 2,000 career rushing attempts. No other position in the NFL sees players fall off a cliff faster than the running back position. There are only so many attempts and hits the body can take before wearing down.

This isn't to say I think Henry will be bad in Baltimore, I don't think he will be. He could still be a 1,000 yards rusher for sure. But I think Henry's best days are behind him and he won't put up crazy numbers due to that and Baltimore's reliance on using multiple different rushers every game.

2. Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Putting Najee Harris above Derrick Henry will most certainly draw the ire of Ravens fans everywhere, but I believe Najee Harris will be a better running back in 2024.

Harris has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons in the league and had a career-best 4.1 yards per carry last season. Harris has run behind some really bad offensive lines during his time in Pittsburgh, but that looks primed to change in 2024.

With the additions of Troy Fautanu and Zach Frazier, plus another year of development from Broderick Jones, this should be the best offensive line in years for the Steelers. And Harris will be the beneficiary of that.

When you add an improved offensive line to a new system under Arthur Smith, Harris should be in for a big year. Derrick Henry had some of his best years in Tennessee when Smith was calling plays there and fans should expect Harris to get a hefty workload, even with stud backup Jaylen Warren on the roster.

Harris is also going to be playing for a contract after his fifth-year option was declined by the team. All those factors added together should make for a fantastic year in Pittsburgh for the former Alabama Crimson Tide star.

1. Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in the league.

His 2023 season was cut short by a season-ending injury sustained in a Week 2 game against the Steelers, but Chubb should return better than ever for the 2024 season.

Since being drafted in 2018, Chubb has never had a season where he averaged less than 5 YPC, which is incredible. He's the bell cow in Cleveland and head coach Kevin Stefanski isn't afraid to let Chubb go to work and pile up carries.

That shouldn't change in 2024. Chubb might start a bit slow as he works back from that gruesome knee injury that cost him last season. But with plenty of questions about Deshaun Watson, expect the Browns to ride Chubb and that great offensive line in 2024.

There was no doubt about this placement. Chubb is the best running back in the division and looks primed to keep that spot for years to come.