Steelers actions with Najee Harris speak louder than words

Omar Khan had nothing but kind words when speaking of Najee Harris... but the team's actions show why they are prepared to move on.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts
Pittsburgh Steelers v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

When the Pittsburgh Steelers declined the fifth-year option for Najee Harris, it looked like the end of the line for the former first-round pick. Harris, one of Kevin Colbert's final draft picks, is set to play out the final season of his rookie contract before hitting free agency in 2025.

Recently, new GM Omar Khan spoke to the media, and his words concerning the Steelers running back offered hope that Harris could be with the team beyond this season. But is that what really happened? Here's what Khan had to say in an interview with 93.7 The Fan.

"It was a business decision that we had to make by, I think, May 2. But Najee’s awesome to have around here. Love Najee as a player and a person. And just because we didn’t pick it up, that doesn’t exclude us from doing something with Najee for the long term. I’d love to say Najee was here and had a long career in Pittsburgh. He really represents us well on the field and off the field. But it was one of those things we had to make a decision on. We just felt right now it was the right decision for everyone. But I love Najee and I would love to have him here long term."

Omar Khan via 93.7 The Fan

Khan didn't beat around the bush: this was a business decision by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though the fifth-year option would have cost the team just $6.79 million in 2025, per Over the Cap, the front office let the deadline pass on this offer.

The general manager mentioned that he loves Najee as a player and person and that he's awesome to have around.

But don't take this as an endorsement to bring Najee Harris back next season.

Steelers will turn the page on Najee Harris in 2025

Omar Khan is a businessman through and through. He knows the going rate for running backs and the devaluation of the position over the years. There's no doubt that Khan understands that taking a running back in the first round is not a good team-building strategy and doubling down on a mistake doesn't make it better.

This isn't to say that Najee shouldn't receive a respectable contract. However, when looking ahead to next offseason, the Steelers have a plethora of players that must be retained and every bit of cap savings matters.

Barring contract extensions with these players, Pittsburgh's 2025 free agents include Cameron Heyward, James Daniels, Donte Jackson, Pat Freiermuth, Russell Wilson, and Justin Fields (among others). Additionally, Jaylen Warren is also due for a contract, and keeping both running backs on extensions doesn't make financial sense for the team. The Steelers could view this as Warren's job after the 2024 season.

Harris's best trait has been his durability, but when it comes to efficiency, he hasn't done anything to set himself apart from most NFL running backs. The former Alabama product has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in his first three years and his 4.7 yards per target in the passing game hardly make him a dangerous receiving threat from the backfield.

We didn't expect Omar Khan to come right out and say that the Pittsburgh Steelers plan to move on from Najee Harris after the 2024 season, but that seems to be the direction the team is heading. I have no doubts that the coaching staff and front office love Najee, but a business decision to turn the page after this season is in the best interest of the team.