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Steelers Undecided About Fifth-Year Options for Najee Harris, Justin Fields

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Pittsburgh Steelers Chicago Bears Justin Fields
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) passes during an NFL football game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Omar Khan gave an update regarding the fifth-year options for running back Najee Harris and quarterback Justin Fields at Monday’s pre-draft press conference. The deadline to decline the options is in just 10 days and it sounds like the Steelers will use every last day to make their decision.

“We have until May 2nd to make that decision,” Khan told reporters. “I am sure we will have some serious conversation about that next week.”

Out of the two players, the general consensus is that the Steelers are more likely to pick up the fifth-year option for Harris than for Fields. This is due to a couple of factors and the first is money. Harris’ projected fifth-year option will cost the Steelers $6.67 million in 2025. In comparison, Field’s projected fifth-year option would cost the Steelers $25.66 million in 2025.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Steelers are not expected to pick up Fields’ fifth-year option. In his report, Dulac said that the team is likely going to try to “redo” his contract to add additional years onto it since they just traded for him.

The second reason that the Steelers are more likely to pick up Harris’ fifth-year option than Fields is on-field production.

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.

Fields on the other hand has flashed greatness but is still very raw in regard to his passing skills. Through 38 career starts in the NFL, Fields guided the Bears to a 10-28 record while throwing for 40 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

At $6 million, it seems like the Steelers should retain Harris for at least one more season beyond this coming one but with a capable, cheaper back up in Jaylen Warren and the volatility of the running back position, the Steelers really may think about this one until the last second.

Nonetheless, the 2024 season will mark Harris’ fourth year as the starting running back for the Steelers and for Fields, it will mark the first year as a member of the Steelers after he played his first three seasons in Chicago.