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One of the main topics of conversation surrounding the Steelers during the 2021 offseason was the need to improve the running game. With one selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, they did just that. With their No. 1 pick, the 24th overall, the Steelers selected Alabama running back Najee Harris, a move that immediately improved the ground game, which ranked last in the NFL in 2020. “I understand they did finish last in rushing last year, but I feel like through a lot of stuff, practice and hard work, that can be changed,” said Harris. “I don’t feel pressure at all. I have come from a lot of situations where stuff was put on me, especially in college. The NFL is different. I feel like it’s nothing I can’t do.” Harris finished his college career as the Crimson Tide’s all-time leading rusher with 3,843 career yards. He also led the school in all-time touchdowns with 57, including a school-record 46 rushing touchdowns and another 11 receiving. Harris’ 4,624 all-purpose yards rank second in school history. “There are a lot of things that’s are similar, just different terminology, the same meaning at the end of the day,” said Harris of the Steelers’ offense vs. the one he ran in college. “The one thing that is similar is how they are going to line me up out wide like they did in college, utilize the running back in the passing game out wide, in the slot, at the X position. The schemes of the runs, the inside zone, the outside zone. “A lot of what they are doing in their offense is a lot of what we did. Putting the players in the best position to make a play. Not doing a lot of thinking, just fast playing. The more you think, the slower you play. It seems like they are trying to make everything as easy as possible so the players can just play fast and really use the best of their ability.” Harris, 6-2, 230, has a combination of size, strength and athleticism that he plans to put to good use, even pointing out with the addition of a 17th game in 2021 that he will be able to carry the load. “In today’s game, some people say it’s a passing league,” said Harris. “I can be utilized in the passing game, I can line up wide, in the slot, I think I’m a mismatch for linebackers. “They added another game, we are playing more games, so I feel like they need somebody who can carry the load. I feel like I fit in perfectly.” When it comes to his use in the passing game, that’s something Harris takes a lot of pride in. During a Zoom call with the media on the weekend of Rookie Minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, Harris was asked about making a one-handed catch, with the tone being that it was an unusual occurrence.
He quickly cleared that up. “I always do that,” said Harris. “Not to brag or anything. It wasn’t luck, I can tell you that. Since you all were watching, I can do it again. It’s not something I work on. It’s something I’ve been doing since middle school. “I’ve got big hands, man.” His running skills, don’t even question those. Harris rushed for 100-plus yards in a game 13 times in his career, including six times in both his junior and senior seasons. He won the Doak Walker Award, presented to the top running back in college football, in 2020 and was a unanimous first-team All-America (Associated Press, AFCA, FWAA, The Sporting News and Walter Camp). But that doesn’t mean he is satisfied, because his focus remains on learning and improving. “I just came in here (for Rookie Minicamp) to learn the offense and bond with some of the guys here,” said Harris. “The main goal is to get better each day. That’s it.” It doesn’t seem like he’s going to have a problem in any of those areas. From the time he started playing football, Harris set his goals to continually improve, always knowing that the competition is going to get stiffer with each step he takes. Subscribe to read more.