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Najee Harris Thriving as ‘All-Weather’ Back



Steelers RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris runs the ball on Jan. 6, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — In a classic 1992 episode of Seinfeld, Cosmo Kramer gets a betting tip about a horse that’s about to break out, in part because it loves the sloppy conditions after a rainy day.

Kramer overhears another bettor talking about the horse, and the iconic quote lives on to this day.

“This baby loves the slop. Loves it. Eats it up. Eats the slop. Born to slop. His father was a mudder. His mother was a mudder.”

Consider this your tip about Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris. 
Harris is not a horse, and while his father did play football at Grambling, it’s not about his bloodlines, either. But there is something about Harris and the way he runs that thrives in less than ideal conditions. You could say that he loves the slop.

Harris ran for 111 yards last Sunday, the fifth-best performance of his NFL career, in what he called the worst conditions he’s ever played in. The Steelers and Ravens battled through a monsoon, with high winds and near-freezing temperatures for their Week 18 duel.

RELATED: Video Breakdown: Steelers, Najee Harris Pound Ravens with Trap

It’s probably not a coincidence that the worst weather Harris has played in led to some of his best results. Harris has six career 100-yard games. All but one of them has come in the second half of the season, and all but one have been played in cold or otherwise less-than-ideal conditions.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and RB Najee Harris

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) and coach Mike Tomlin walk off the field following an NFL football game against the Las Vegas Raiders in Pittsburgh, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Najee Harris Career 100-Yard Games, Weather

188 yards, vs. Cleveland Browns, Jan. 3, 2022: 25 degrees, 12 mph wind
122 yards, at Seattle Seahawks, Dec. 31, 2023: 47 degrees
122 yards, vs. Denver Broncos, Oct. 10, 2021: 71 degrees
112 yards, at Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 6, 2024: 38 degrees, 15 mph wind, heavy rain
111 yards, at Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 1, 2023: 44 degrees, rain
105 yards, vs. Detroit Lions, Nov. 14, 2021: 37 degrees, 12 mph wind, heavy rain

“That’s a cool statistic,” running backs coach and interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner said. “I don’t know if he likes it, but he works real well in it.”

While Faulkner wasn’t necessarily aware of how Harris had run in bad weather, he’s not surprised that the end of the season is when he’s shined. In fact, that was part of the allure of drafting the big Alabama back in the first place.

“That was a lot of the discussion of why we brought him here,” Faulkner said. “That’s who he is. This late in the season, that kind of body, that was the purpose of why Najee is here. I’m not surprised by it. We’ve been very fortunate that he’s been able to stay healthy throughout his career and get to this point. … I think we can all see how the pile has been moving forward and the war of attrition that he brings to the defense. We love it.”

Steelers RB Najee Harris

Steelers RB Najee Harris against the Baltimore Ravens, Jan. 6, 2024 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“He’s a big back. We value big backs here in Pittsburgh,” head coach Mike Tomlin said. “The attrition component that is the season, the weather component, it’s just teed up for guys with skill sets like his.”

Harris himself was quick to credit the offense around him for the way things have gone the last two weeks, and said it’s a bit of a strange career fit for a player from the Bay Area of California who played his college football at Alabama.

“I try to be an all-weather type of runner,” he said “I’m from California. We don’t even have that.”

But admitted that he isn’t necessarily bothered by the cold, rain or snow. It was just another thing in a list of hardships that Harris had to put his mind to in order to overcome in his career. Just like all of the rest of them, he checked another box.

“When it’s those type of days, I think that I know what type of day it’s going to be,” Harris said. “I kind of mentally prepare myself for that. … It’s nothing new to us. We’re prepared for that. We’re happy to be in those types of environments.”

See? He loves the slop.