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Daily Links: One Stat Unkind to Najee, Ranking Steelers Secondary



Steelers RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on Nov. 21, 2022. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Athletic’s Larry Holder pointed out that Najee Harris’ EPA (expected points added) per rush and reception numbers were absolutely dismal last year. Harris’ EPA dropped from -0.05 in 2021, falling from 39th in the NFL to 52nd. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren finished his first season with a 0.12 EPA per rush and 0.30 EPA per target, rounding out to a 0.17 EPA overall, ranking 1st in the NFL.

For this reason, Holder is worried about Harris’ future in Pittsburgh.

“The bright red rates for the likes of Najee Harris, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara should ring the alarm,” Holder wrote. “The Steelers have been riding Harris for his first two seasons, but like Cook, Harris’ numbers alarmingly dropped from 2021 to 2022.

“Harris is the Steelers’ No. 1 back, but given these rates, I’ll be curious to see how Pittsburgh deploys Warren, a 2022 undrafted rookie, this season. Warren only scored one TD last season, but half of his receptions and 20 of his 77 carries went for first downs while averaging 4.9 yards per carry.”

RELATED: RB Market Could Have Steelers, Najee Harris at Odds in Near Future

🏈 Pro Football Focus: PFF ranked the Steelers’ secondary as the 18th-best in the NFL.

“It may be a shock to see this unit so low, but the Steelers’ secondary hasn’t graded in the top half of the league since 2020,” John Kosko of PFF wrote. “(Patrick) Peterson had a huge bounce-back season in 2022 for the Vikings, finishing with a 77.8 overall grade and five interceptions, the most he has recorded in a single season since 2012. Incoming rookie Joey Porter Jr. also had a career year this past fall, allowing only 143 yards in 10 games. This unit will need to gel quickly if they are to rise up these rankings during the season.”

🏈 ESPN: Kenny Pickett had a Steelers-themed ice sculpture at his wedding. Pickett’s personal quarterback coach Tony Racioppi, who was at the wedding, posted a picture of a Steelers ice sculpture towering over an oyster and shrimp spread.

RELATED: Steelers QB Kenny Pickett Marries Fiancee Amy Paternoster

🎂 Born on June 26, 1980 in Newport News, Virginia, former Steelers quarterback Michael Vick turns 43 today. Vick played the final season of his NFL career with the Steelers in 2015, serving as a backup to Ben Roethlisberger and playing in five games while making three starts.

Vick was originally a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons coming out of Virginia Tech in 2001 and was a three-time Pro Bowler for the Falcons before his career was halted in 2007 after he was convicted on dogfighting charges. He resumed playing in 2009 with the Philadelphia Eagles and had one season with the New York Jets in 2014.

🎥 The Vintage NFL Twitter account took a look back at the Steelers’ 29-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 12 of the 2002 season.


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