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Tomlin: ‘Business Component’ to Steelers Nixing Najee Harris’ Option

Tomlin: Steelers Nixing Najee Harris’ Option Just Business

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Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris on the sidelines during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Acrisure Stadium on Dec. 23, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — It has been common for star Pittsburgh Steelers players that are in the process of negotiating a contract extension with the team over the last few years to decline to fully take part in their optional offseason workouts, but running back Najee Harris isn’t taking that tact.

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Diontae Johnson and T.J. Watt are a few of the players that have taken such a tactic over the years, and Cam Heyward is doing so this year, declining to participate in OTAs at all.

That’s not the case for Harris, who is now entering the final season of his contract after the Steelers turned down his fifth-year option earlier this month.

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris

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

What does that mean for Harris, and the way the team feels about him? Tomlin said that decision was more about the business side of things and the positional value of the running back position than being unhappy with Harris as a player.

“It could reflect a lot of things, but there’s probably some depth to those waters,” Tomlin said. “Sometimes, it’s position-related, and things of that nature. There’s a business component of this and of all decisions that we make. There’s layers to it. I’m not going to try to characterize it in simplicity. That would probably be inappropriate.”

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Harris declined to speak to the media on Tuesday, so how he feels is unknown. His agent refuted a report earlier this offseason that he wanted to leave Pittsburgh. Harris is ready to go to work, which might signify that talks for a contract extension are not at the forefront between him and the team.

Heyward was actually the only one of the team’s major veterans on expiring contracts to not participate in OTAs on Tuesday. Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth and guard James Daniels all worked with the team on Tuesday.

“Really excited about the participating and the engagement,” Tomlin said of the general attendance. “It’s been good throughout. But at the same time, we’re not patting ourselves on the back for that. When you have the type of goals that we have, then it’s a requirement.”