Though predictable, Pro Football Focus has their idea of how the Pittsburgh Steelers should handle Najee Harris and their running back room going forward. Sam Monson appeared on the Game On! podcast to advocate for the team to let Harris play out the final year of his rookie deal and replace him in the 2025 NFL Draft. 

“I still think that the smart move would be to let him go, get the money somewhere else,” Monson told host John Ellis. “And take another swing but instead of the first round, grab a guy in the third round and achieve a very similar thing.”

True to form, PFF believes in devaluing running backs and not using high picks on the position. Instead, they vouch for building up the offensive line so any running back can have success. On a baseline level, it makes sense. No matter how talented the running back, they won’t find consistency behind a bad o-line. An average back will have more success behind a good front five than a great back will behind poor blockers.

Monson illustrates Najee Harris as another example of that. Pittsburgh found their running back before building their offensive line and Harris struggled behind a patchwork group in 2021. The site has also been partial to Jaylen Warren, citing his bigger-play ability, as another reason to avoid paying Harris.

As the Steelers have improved up front, Harris has gotten better. That shouldn’t remove all credit from Harris, whose size and strength have made for some of each year’s most powerful and bruising runs as his two-time “Angry Run” yearly awards indicate. But there’s no question teams still need to build inside out.

“Unless you find the guy that is truly transcendent,” Monson said of drafting and retaining running backs. “That breaks the rules and can completely overcome whatever the situation is around him, then it doesn’t make sense to pay big money to a guy who is a slave to the environment around him. A slave to the blocking, a slave to the scheme. Najee Harris was drafted in the first round to effectively fix the running game by himself…behind a poor offensive line, Najee Harris couldn’t do that.”

After declining his option, Harris is slated to be a free agent after the 2024 season. Pittsburgh could pay Harris but if he has a big year under OC Arthur Smith and the best o-line he’s had in the NFL, it won’t be cheap. Paying Harris could cost $10 million-plus next season and would be a risky investment. Harris didn’t declare early and played out his Alabama eligibility and will be 27 by the start of the 2025 season. But assuming no extension occurs before Week 1 of this year, it’ll be a decision Pittsburgh can make with more information after the fall.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here