Now a Captain, Najee Harris Seizing Leadership Role
PITTSBURGH — Second-year players do not earn a captainship very often on their respective teams, but that does not apply to Steelers running back Najee Harris. Harris will end up as a Steelers captain this upcoming year along with Mitch Trubisky, Cam Heyward, T.J. Watt, and Miles Killebrew.
His leadership capabilities have long shown themselves through to his teammates. Cam Heyward, who mentored Harris in his rookie year in preparation for a leadership role, sees the developing leader in Harris every day. Harris must take the next step as a leader to prove that he can lead from the front, but the qualities clearly are there.
“I think it really shows the leadership he has,” Heyward said. “He is a guy that leads by example, doesn’t say a lot, but he really was destined to be a captain. When you look at our roster, he’s the bellcow. Sure we’ve had bellcows that have not been captains, but it’s what he does off the field. He is locked in. Guys follow him. He knows how to challenge guys. Najee will be that guy, years down the road, where you will be saying captain by his name again and again.”
Trubisky played with many great leaders during his time in Chicago, including star edge rusher Khalil Mack. He knows what it looks like for a leader to rally the troops forward. In Harris, he sees a mature young player wise beyond his years, and that sets up Harris for success in a leadership capacity.
“He’s mature for his age,” Trubisky said. “He just comes in here and knows how to work, knows the offense. That guy just knows how to win. If you come in and work, be consistent and do the right things day in and day out, people will look up to you. He is also motivating other guys and pushing other guys to go in the right direction. That’s how you lead a group.”
Trubisky also pointed to “how bad he wants it” as a big plus for Harris’ leadership ability. Pat Freiermuth grew up in the NFL alongside Harris. As both were rookies, Harris and Freiermuth became foundational parts of the Steelers’ future on offense. As such, Freiermuth can say he has more than enough confidence in what Harris can do as a leader.
“Najee is a young guy, but he is an up-and-comer,” Freiermuth said. “We trust him as a leader right away.”
Another Steelers player, or legend in this case, that had the last name Harris was Hall of Famer Franco Harris. He came out to practice last week, and during it, got to meet Najee Haris for the first time. Franco Harris immediately knew he was a fan of the younger Harris once he saw him play the game of football.
“I’m a fan of Najee,” Harris said. Watching him last year, he made me a fan. I finally got to meet him, I didn’t get the chance to spend quality time with him, but I’m looking forward to that. We know he’s doing great things as a running back and we know he’s a great human being, great guy and already gives back and does things in communities. So, I look forward to sharing time with him as time goes along, but I really like my cousin and what he’s doing so far.”
Harris has the opportunity of a lifetime to make his mark indelible on the Steelers offense. He will work as the focal point of their offense on the field. Off the field, Harris could make his presence felt in an even stronger way.