Homistek: Ironically, It Sounds Like Najee Harris Needs a Snickers
Najee Harris sounds grumpy, man.
The Steelers’ second-year running back isn’t having the season many expected.
After a productive, if inefficient, rookie campaign, many –– myself and the Steelers organization included –– felt Harris was primed for a breakout year in 2022.
So far, that hasn’t materialized.
Through eight games, Harris averages just 3.34 yards per rushing attempt. He registered one touchdown by ground and two by air.
It’s not what anyone expected.
Understandably, Harris isn’t thrilled.
“Umm… I don’t really know how to answer that one,” Harris recently replied when asked about his dropoff in production by StillCurtain.com’s Tommy Jaggi.
It’s not just the answer that alarms me, though. It’s Harris’ body language. Watch for yourself:
It’s a tough question, to be certain. Kudos to Jaggi for outright going there.
But Harris doesn’t exactly stick the landing.
“Maybe it’s just, you know, just trying to get a good feel for everybody, I guess,” Harris continued. “I don’t really call the plays so I can’t really control that.”
Ironically, the interview opportunity came as a result of a recent Snickers campaign, the Snickers Rookie Mistake of the Year.
As the 2022 season progresses, it’s clear if anyone in the Steelers locker room might need a Snickers right now, it’s Harris.
That response, deflecting to the playcalling, wasn’t great, but it echoes Harris’ sentiments this earlier this year.
“I can’t… I can’t make the hole, you know what I mean?” Harris said after the Steelers’ Week 7 16-10 loss to the Dolphins in Miami. “I can’t do everything. I mean, I try to control what I can control, and I don’t know what more I can do other than just vocalize it, but at the end of the day, everybody gotta do their job.”
Harris, despite being in Year 2, is supposed to be a leader for this Steelers team.
We hear Mike Tomlin talk about it constantly and publicly. That’s important because Tomlin is extremely measured and careful with what he gives the media to work with. He wouldn’t call Harris a leader if he didn’t believe it and if he didn’t want that narrative out in public view.
To his credit, Harris responds positively when asked about that dynamic. It sounds like he embraces it.
He sits at his locker after every game, still dressed in full pads while everyone else showers and changes, and reflects on things that went right and wrong during the game.
He’s doing the right things in those regards.
But constantly blaming others and appearing annoyed by interview requests?
That ain’t it.
The prevailing, hot narrative in Pittsburgh right now isn’t whether Harris can make the sophomore leap anymore.
Is Najee Harris the best running back on the Steelers roster?
And the answer isn’t clear.
Undrafted free agent rookie Jaylen Warren is more efficient and more explosive than Harris so far in 2022. As our Alan Saunders noted, however, there are some reasons for that.
It’s not 100 percent clear that Warren is the better back (as many want to be the case) but the fact it’s a conversation at all is damning evidence of Harris’ dropoff.
We should be talking about Harris as an All-Pro contender if he is what the Steelers thought and hoped he’d be.
Instead, we’re asking if Harris is better than Warren –– and struggling with the response.
Now, Harris did battle a foot injury throughout the offseason and the early part of the 2022 regular season. He flatly denied its impact on his performance, though.
“No. No sir,” Harris replied when asked by Jaggi if the injury played a part in the dropoff.
So it’s not the injury, per Harris himself, but his play still inspires tweets like this:
31 year old Cordarrelle Patterson has missed 4.5 games due to injury this season
He has 0.86 fewer points than Najee Harris (who’s played 8 full games) in .5 PPR
— PrizeFinder (@PrizeFinder_) November 7, 2022
This fan is more elusive than Najee Harris
— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) November 4, 2022
Pittsburg Front office to Najee Harris when Jaylen takes his Job pic.twitter.com/DEwsAhhhDG
— Dynasty Football Guy (@TheDynastyGod) November 9, 2022
I could go on –– but I won’t.
Because at the end of the day, the Steelers offense in general is a dumpster fire in 2022. I’m not sure a prime Barry Sanders would look the same in Matt Canada’s system.
The blame isn’t all Harris’, to be certain.
There’s still potential for him to become that guy the Steelers expected when they spent their first-round pick on him in 2021.
In the meantime, though, Harris needs to lead by example and improve, as Tomlin has noted repeatedly.
Being grumpy, deflecting interviews, or seeming uninterested mid-interview is a bad look for him and for the sponsors he represents.
That, for sure, is not the guy the Steelers drafted.
Maybe Harris will cheer up once his production increases. Maybe he’ll feel better when the offense puts more points on the board. Maybe the feeling of 2-6 and last place in the AFC North eats at him.
Or maybe he just needs a Snickers.
Until Harris shares responsibility for his play, it’s anybody’s guess.