Instant Analysis: Steelers Select Najee Harris with 24th Overall Pick

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Najee Harris (Alabama) with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over video call after being selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers as the number 24 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select Najee Harris, running back, Alabama.

The 6’1, 230 pounds back will be joining the Pittsburgh Steelers. An absolute bruiser, light on his feet, and a complete three-down back that will be the day one starter.

After the Steelers lost James Conner to free agency and finished near the bottom in every rushing metric, many mocks predicted Harris to the Steelers. Some even compared Harris to a young Le’Veon Bell. 

For those unfamiliar with Harris’s work, his TDN scouting report can be seen below:

Harris is a versatile threat that was a rare case of a backfield rusher who played all four seasons in Tuscaloosa. A tall and upright runner, Harris is a blend of power, determination, and versatility as both a between-the-tackles runner and perimeter rushing threat. A comfortable pass-catcher out of the backfield, he’s made strides in his pass-catching ability every season. A running back that can have passing concepts designed around his abilities, he can routinely put second-level defenders in a bind with schemed patterns to attack coverage. A runner that always seems to fall forward when taking on contact, he’s a highly determined and physical rusher who forces defenders to tackle him to the ground through the echo of the whistle. Harris isn’t a running back who contains multiple gears, as he’s a flat-footed runner that paces his way through defenses. Another key attribute on his resume is his ability to finish drives with touchdowns. Few match Harris’ will and “want to” with getting into the endzone, as he led the country in scores in that area last season.

In 2020, Harris rushed for 1,466 yards on 251 attempts. The expectation is Harris will come in and see the bulk of the carries while also provide a threat in the running game. His ability to find the end zone should also help jump-start the Steelers rushing attack, as Harris led the FBS in points scored with 84.

The only concern here is Harris’s lack of top-end home run speed, and he was rarely asked to pass protect during his collegiate career. If Harris can prove to pass protect, this could turn out to be a home run pick.

Overall, the Steelers continue to take steps to surround Big Ben with weapons across the board. Harris’s natural hands should be a great asset to Ben when the pocket breaks down and could even be a threat on the wheel route.

Grade: A-

The Steelers now need to turn their attention to the offensive line. Big Ben has the weapons around him; keeping him upright long enough to get the ball to his playmakers is now priority number one.