The Steelers’ running game has to come to life, and while the offensive line is starting to gel, their star running back, Najee Harris, is starting to feel out his way in the NFL as well. While he just won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month. Harris’ numbers and tape have improved considerably. No longer is Harris missing open holes because he is trying to make a big play happen. More importantly, he is working off his offensive line better than ever before as he develops a rapport with them.
Harris’ growth is not one of talent improvement, but one of mental improvement. For Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, Harris is showing the growth needed to continue the development of the running game, and his game as a whole.
“We think he’s a total package back,” Canada said. “We’ve said that from day one. To pinpoint one, I think he’s running the ball—I don’t want to say better—but he’s realizing how challenging it is. To get a four-yard run’s a big deal at this level.”
While Canada will not outright admit that Harris is running better, he certainly has done so at a higher level. He is averaging 98 yards per game over the last three games, and averaging over four yards per carry in that span. Even still, that is not his only improved area. Harris has shown growth in pass protection and receiving ability as well.
“I think his pass protection has improved,” Canada said. “He was really big on the touchdown pass. Ben [Roethlisberger] got him over there and he chipped and got us the chance to get the ball off. His pass catching. I don’t think anything’s improved, but I think you’re just seeing him become more comfortable, playing more fluidly. He’s certainly continuing to get better, which has helped us.”
Harris will have to continue the growth and high-level play that he has displayed in order for the Steelers to continue winning. However, as long as that trend continues, good things will likely happen for the back and the Steelers offense.