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Steelers Decline Najee Harris’ Fifth-Year Option

The Pittsburgh Steelers are declining running back Najee Harris’ fifth-year option, which will make him a free agent following the 2024 season



Steelers RB Najee Harris
Steelers RB Najee Harris against the Cincinnati Bengals, Dec. 23, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declined Najee Harris’ fifth-year option. The 2021 first-round pick will have the chance to become a free agent following the 2024 season

Harris’s option cost was $6.790 million for that fifth year. That would have paid him well for the position and where it is at, and as a bastion of availability, he has been dependable. But Pittsburgh is not rewarding him with that fifth-year option money. He will be a tandem with Jaylen Warren for this season, with Warren set to be a restricted free agent after the season and Cordarrelle Patterson under contract for the next two seasons.

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. In 2023, Harris had the best season of his career in terms of yards per carry as he 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 in each of his first two seasons.

And with the reset of the running back market in 2024, guys like Saquon Barkley did well for themselves. And joining the Kelce Brothers on the New Heights Podcast, Barkley lumped in Harris with guys who he hopes get more money than he did.

“That’s your goal, you want to get to a second contract,” Barkley said. “I feel like where I got, it’s like now, Bijan, Jahmyr, Najee, you boys, go beat me. I’m a competitor, I’m trying to go out this year, especially with the situation I’m in now, I’m trying to be the best running back. No questions about it. But let’s push each other. Let’s all drive it.”

Harris, the team’s first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has produced well in his first three years with the team despite suboptimal conditions given his offensive line play in front of him

Asked about Najee 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.”

Second-year back Jaylen Warren ran for 5.3 yards per carry, one of the best figures in the league in 2023. He ran 149 times for 784 yards and four touchdowns. He was also more involved in the passing game, catching 61 passes for 370 yards compared to 29 receptions for 170 yards for Harris.