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Commitment made by pick of Harris in 1st

It was time. And the way it worked out was perfect because when the Steelers’ turn came to make the 24th overall selection of the 2021 NFL Draft, need and best player available had come together perfectly for them. It was time, not only for a running back to be selected in the first round of this particular draft but also time for the Steelers to make the kind of commitment to improving the running game that spending a No. 1 pick on a running back represents. And it didn’t take them long after going on the clock to make that commitment via the selection of Alabama’s Najee Harris. “When we went through our scenarios, it was an easy decision by us to say, if Najee Harris is available, we will pick him,” said General Manager Kevin Colbert. “He’s an exciting player, and he’s a three-dimensional running back coming from a professional offensive system. He’s made NFL runs his whole career, and it was easy to identify him. I got to see him live myself this year. We had six live looks at him during the course of the season between myself and the scouts, and every time we talked about him, we were excited that this caliber of player would be available to us.” In 2020, the Steelers rushing attack finished last in the NFL, and it was a precipitous fall as well as an embarrassment for a franchise that long has built a reputation for a physical style of play, and when it comes to offense a physical style of play is reflected in an ability to run the football. Operating Woody Hayes’ three-yardsand- a-cloud-of-dust scheme with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback would’ve been tantamount to football malpractice, but the Steelers inability to convert third-and-1s, fourth-and-1s, and goalto- go situations with their running attack eventually became a deal-breaker for a team that won an AFC North title but was bounced from the playoffs in the Divisional Round. Since the time Dan Rooney hired Chuck Noll in January 1969 and simultaneously turned the fortunes of the franchise around, the Steelers had spent five first-round picks on running backs before Najee Harris became the sixth. And it was the pick of Franco Harris in 1972 that proved to be the second-most significant No. 1 pick in the construction of the team that went on to win four Super Bowls over six seasons during the 1970s. Or as Joe Greene, the most significant No. 1 pick in franchise history once put it, “We didn’t win very often until Franco got here, and we didn’t lose very often after he did.” Much pre-draft speculation linked Najee Harris to the Steelers, but history has shown that once the picking eventually begins what seemed sensible in March can dissolve like a puff of smoke in a windstorm. And when a team is picking 24th as the Steelers were, a lot of things can happen to upset even the best laid plans, and that’s when a team has to get lucky.

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