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Steelers RBs Led NFL in One Key Stat Last Season

Last year, Pittsburgh Steelers running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren led the NFL in broken tackles with 59.

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Steelers RB Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Warren runs with the ball against the Baltimore Ravens on Jan. 6, 2024. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris gets a lot of flak for not breaking off explosive runs. But, one thing he can’t be knocked for is his ability to break tackles. Harris has forced 107 missed tackles since 2022, according to Pro Football Focus. Only Josh Jacobs (118), Travis Etienne Jr. (121) and Derrick Henry (126) have forced more missed tackles in that span.

Steelers running back Jaylen Warren is also exceptional at breaking tackles. Since 2021, Warren has been at the top of the league in forced missed tackles and scrimmage yards per touch, according to a study by Football Insights. Warren leads the NFL in missed tackles forced per carry.

Last year, the Steelers’ running backs led the NFL in broken tackles with 59. The Baltimore Ravens were second with 46, and the Cleveland Browns were fourth with 41.

Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus ranked the Steelers’ running back unit as the 17th-best in the NFL, which seems rather low.

“Both Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren were top-25 running backs in PFF wins above average in 2023. The Steelers ranked 13th in the league in PFF rushing grade from their running backs, and 14th in EPA per rush,” Sikkema wrote. “Warren and Harris each averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry, as well, and the two remain a very solid duo for 2024.”

Harris and Warren should flourish in Arthur Smith’s run-heavy offense. Smith said at minicamp there will be plenty of carries to around for both running backs.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills on Jan. 15, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“Ultimately, it’s a fine line. You have your beliefs, but you’re not so rigid. You’re trying to play to their hand and enhance things year after year to try to get them an approval on. But Najee and Jaylen have had a lot of success in this league,” Smith said. “And so, as they fit in there, you break it down, give or take 17-game season, you hope to have 1,100-plus plays. And if you’re a balanced offense, nobody, even Derrick Henry, we didn’t ask him to carry the ball 550 times. So there’s plenty of carries to go around, whether that’s traditionally or non-traditionally.”

Despite not placing the fifth-year option on running back Najee Harris, Steelers general manager Omar Khan is leaving the door open for a long-term deal. Khan said last week during an appearance on 93.7 The Fan that turning down Harris’ option was solely a business decision.

“It was a business decision that we had to make by I think it was May 2. Najee is awesome to have around here. We love him as a player and a person. Just because we didn’t pick up the option doesn’t exclude us from doing something with Najee for the long term,” Khan said. “I’d love to say he had a long career in Pittsburgh. He really represents us well on the field and off the field. It was just one of those things that we had to make a decision on. We just felt right now that was the right decision for everyone. I love Najee and would love to have him here long-term.”