Rhamondre Stevenson contract will set the stage for Steelers RB Najee Harris

This running back contract extension could give the Steelers a baseline of where they stand with RB Najee Harris.
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers
New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

Late in Kevin Colbet's tenure as general manager, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't find much success with their first-round draft picks. As a result, there haven't been many who have warranted fifth-year options. However, fans thought that would change during the 2024 offseason.

Najee Harris is entering the final year of his rookie contract after three straight 1,000-yard seasons to begin his NFL career. Regardless of his production, Pittsburgh's front office let the deadline pass on the fifth-year option for Harris. He is now scheduled to be a free agent in 2025.

While there have been no contract talks concerning Harris and the Steelers at this time, one of Najee's former draftmates from the 2021 class could set the table for what a new deal could look like.

Rhamondre Stevenson's contract extension could set market for Najee Harris

On June 10, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network interviewed Patriots RB Rhamondre Stevenson who believes he is 'pretty close' to finalizing an extension with New England. Early whispers suggest that Stevenson could make as much as $8 million in average annual earnings on his new deal.

Stevenson shares a lot of similarities with Najee Harris. At roughly 6'0'' and 231 pounds, Stevenson was a large back coming out of Oklahoma the same year Najee was drafted and both backs were 23 years old during their rookie seasons.

While Stevenson doesn't possess the same raw numbers over his first three years, he did notch a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2022 before missing 5 games with injuries last season. Stevenson and Harris have been comparable as receivers out of the backfield. Though Najee has more raw production as a runner, Stevenson edges him out in yards per carry (4.5).

It's also worth noting that Stevenson graded out as a top-12 running back in each of his first two NFL seasons, according to Pro Football Focus. Meanwhile, Harris has not graded out as a top-20 running back in any of his first three seasons.

When the Steelers passed on the fifth-year option for Najee, the price tag was very reasonable at $6.79 million. Even after another expected heavy workload in 2024, he could be looking at more in average annual earnings.

If Harris records another 1,000-yard season, it's going to be easy for his agent to make a case as to why he should be earning more than Rhamondre Stevenson. The difference is that Harris already has 834 NFL carries compared to just 499 for the Patriots running back.

If not the Pittsburgh Steelers, there will be a team willing to dish out money to Najee Harris because of his production and workhorse ability. However, the former first-round pick has averaged 3.9 yards per carry over the course of his career, and any team that signs him next has the right to question how much tread is left on the tires.