Entering his sophomore season, running back Najee Harris is set to be the star and focal point of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense.
Harris led the NFL with 381 touches last season, and all signs point to him carrying a similar workload this year as well.
While he is arguably the Steelers’ best offensive player, the team may be wise to slightly scale Harris’ usage back before it catches up to him. The worst case scenario would be to not have him available when the Steelers are ideally competing for a playoff spot or more.
That could be accomplished by signing a legitimate backup that they actually give carries, which is a strategy they have not implemented in the past.
Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, that player is not currently on their roster.
While Benny Snell has not necessarily been given that opportunity, his limited chances have not shown much substance.
Anthony McFarland Jr. has dealt with injuries, and has just 36 attempts for 116 yards in two seasons.
Luckily, there are plenty of options still available on the open market that could effectively spell Harris.
Latavius Murray was a reliable back for the Baltimore Ravens last season after their running back room was decimated by injuries. He rushed for 501 yards and six touchdowns on just 119 carries.
Alex Collins gashed the Steelers for 101 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 with Seattle.
Justin Jackson accounted for 1,548 total yards and four scores as the primary backup to Austin Ekeler with the Chargers the last four years.
It’s not like the market is barren, as the options are clearly there.
The Steelers have been two-deep in the past, but didn’t begin using the backup’s services until the starter was already unavailable. They failed to think proactively that saving their workhorse’s legs, both literally and figuratively, would pay off later on.
Le’Veon Bell was already on injured reserve by the time DeAngelo Williams rushed for the bulk of his 907 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015.
James Conner had just 32 attempts for 144 yards behind Bell in 2017. He was a first-time Pro Bowler the very next season as the full-time starter.
Pittsburgh has had no shortage of capable backs, they just have not used them early enough.
Not only do the Steelers need to find Harris running mate for 2022, but they also need to be cautious with their star tailback by learning from their past mistakes and giving his backup a significant role.