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Najee Harris Steelers
NFL

Is Najee Harris Back?

  • Jack McKessy
  • December 4, 2022
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Over the last few weeks, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has turned things around, putting together one of the best stretches of his career so far. What’s changed for him recently, if anything, and is his bounceback reason enough for us to buy back in?

After a solid rookie season, Harris’ mission to follow it up with a better sophomore showing faced an early setback when he suffered a Lisfranc injury in training camp. Though he was still available for Week 1 action, the Alabama product didn’t look quite right to begin the season. He averaged fewer than 3.3 yards per carry in his 100 rushes over the first seven weeks of the season. Harris was taking a beating more than he was giving out the crushing blows he had been known for. The elusiveness and contact balance that had brought him success in college and in his rookie season weren’t showing up consistently, and it was hurting Harris’ production.

That’s partly why the Steelers decided to start using a running back by committee approach starting in Week 8 and doubling down out of the bye in Week 10, taking some of the load off of the second-year back and spreading carries in the backfield. The results were nearly immediate. Harris put up a season-high 99 yards against the New Orleans Saints, running hard, finding holes, and breaking through contact all day.

Since then, Harris’ production has consistently remained higher than it was to begin the season. He had 90 more yards on the ground against the Cincinnati Bengals with an additional 26 yards receiving in Week 11 and 35 yards on 10 carries one week later before an abdominal injury cut his day short. In the three weeks out of the bye entering this Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, Harris averaged 4.5 yards per carry on 50 rush attempts.

On Sunday, Harris’ performance was more of the same as what we’ve seen from him in recent weeks. He was running hard and lowering his shoulder through contact once again, picking up some extra yardage on second efforts consistently.

The result was yet another big performance: 86 rushing yards on 17 carries (5.1 yards per attempt). The foot and abdominal injuries are clearly no longer big factors, and the shared workload has really helped to get Harris back on track. His good day against the Falcons made it three straight (completed) games averaging at least 4.5 yards per carry and 85 rushing yards. That is very good news for Pittsburgh’s offense, which has been looking to get their running game reignited all year.

After a less-than-perfect first half of the season from Harris, the second-year back seems to have found his footing (no pun intended) once again after recovering from his injury and taking on less of the workload. The numbers he has put up in recent weeks and the way he’s getting those results are good reasons to believe Harris’ bounceback is for real. Najee Harris has provided a spark to the offense late in the season and looks capable of sustaining this level of success going forward to end the year strong.

Written By

Jack McKessy