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Kevin Colbert Thinks Running Backs Deserve More Respect

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Steelers RB Najee Harris

The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl in 2022 and 2023 with Isiah Pacheco as their running back, a seventh-round pick out of Rutgers in 2022. This is a prime example of why running backs have been devalued over the years, as they’re viewed as a dime a dozen by evaluators. It’s not essential to invest a lot of draft capital in a running back to win a Super Bowl. It’s all about having an elite quarterback, that’s the center piece to build around.

Despite this notion, former Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert thinks running backs still matter. He’s fully aware that it’s a quarterback-driven league, but he feels like running backs are unfairly judged.

“When you have a big lead, you better be able to run out the clock. Because that’s how you win games,” Colbert told Armstrong Neighborhood Channel host Ed Codi. “That’s how you win championships. And anybody that talks about the value of a running back, um, I always refer to them to the Hall of Fame, and look at all the great plays that are there.

“I understand the game has changed, and maybe there’ll be more wide receivers in the Hall of Fame as we move forward, but I will never minimize the impact of a great runner. They talk about market value for a running backs and so on and so forth. I will always live by the fact that you don’t pay the position, you pay the player.”

Colbert also defended his first-round selection of Steelers running back Najee Harris in 2021. Over the years, Colbert has received flak for selecting Harris and not the center position.

“Najee Harris helped the Steelers win a lot of games. And he’s helped himself by rushing for over a thousand yards in each of his seasons,” Colbert said.

Harris has produced well in his first three years with the team despite suboptimal conditions given his offensive line play in front of him. The Steelers have a tough decision this offseason on whether to pick up the option on Harris’ deal for the 2025 season.

Asked about Harris’ future during his season-ending press conference, Mike Tomlin gushed about the performance of his big back.

“Man, he’s been what we needed him to be,” Tomlin said. “I read a stat, I think you know, he’s 1,000-yard rusher three straight years and how scarce that is. And I just think that speaks to his consistency, availability. He’s been really solid.”

As Tomlin notes, Harris became the first player in Steelers history to run for 1,000 or more yards in each of the first three seasons of his career. He had the best season of his career in terms of yards per carry in 2023. Harris rushed 255 times for 1,035 yards — a 4.1 yards per carry average — and he scored eight touchdowns. Harris had rushed for 3.9 and 3.8 yards per carry one each of his first two seasons.