As the highest-selected running back in the ’21 draft, Steelers rookie Najee Harris came into Pittsburgh with big expectations, but few would have expected him to be setting records after just five weeks.
But that’s exactly what happened Sunday, thanks to a 27-19 win over the Denver Broncos, a game in which Harris rattled off 123 rushing yards and a TD on 23 carries. The triple-digit rushing performance makes Harris the first rookie since Alvin Kamara in 2017 to record both a 100-plus yard receiving and 100-plus yard rushing game…and Harris still has 12 games yet to play this season. (Harris put up 102 yards receiving on 14 catches in a Week 3 loss to the Bengals.)
Kamara, now a superstar multi-use back for the Saints, broke the 100-yard rushing and receiving barriers just once during his rookie season. Plainly put, rookie backs, even talented ones, simply don’t touch the ball enough or haven’t adjusted to the NFL quickly enough to put up massive numbers in their inaugural seasons. All throughout camp, though, the story on Harris was that he was eager to learn and adjust as quickly as possible, and now that preparation is paying dividends. Harris currently sits 17th in the entire league in rushing yards per game, with a respectable 61.4 average. Again, he’s a rookie, in early October.
Kamara finished his own rookie campaign with 728 rushing yards (on an amazing 120 carries.) Harris will get many more touches than that if he stays healthy, but he will also blow those rushing yardage numbers out of the water on his current pace. All in all, it’s a stellar beginning to a career that could be extremely special, especially as Pittsburgh looks to usher in a new era of talent with the imminent retirement of their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers (2-3) face a struggling, and perhaps desperate, Seattle Seahawks team this weekend on Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh. Seattle currently ranks second-to-last in the league in team rushing defense, so expect a lot of touches and a big coming out party for Harris in this primetime matchup. FanDuel Sportsbook currently makes the Steelers a (-4.5) home favorite.