When the Steelers chose Alabama’s Najee Harris with the 24th pick in last month’s NFL Draft, they knew they weren’t getting a burner or a buttery smooth pass-catcher in the mold of Christian McCaffrey. No, the reason Harris came off the board in Round 1 (one pick before his Clemson counterpart Travis Etienne) is because he’s an absolute terror to bring down, a 6’2,” 230-pound tank embodying the smash-mouth stylings of other great power backs like fellow ‘Bama product Derrick Henry and Bucs bruiser Leonard Fournette.
Harris is no doubt a physical specimen and one of the more powerfully-built players at his position, but even he was floored at the sight of teammate Zach Banner, who the 23-year-old was introduced to at a team event earlier this month. Banner, who tore his ACL in Pittsburgh’s opener last year, stands 6’8” while weighing a healthy 335 pounds. The two exchanged pleasantries in the stadium concourse at Heinz Field with Harris inquiring about Banner’s Chamorro heritage.
Visibly struck by Banner’s commanding stature, Harris remarked to cameras, “That boy is big as hell.” Harris, who finished his career in Tuscaloosa as the Crimson Tide’s all-time rushing leader, will be tasked with propping up a stagnant Steelers ground attack that ranked among the sport’s worst last season (dead-last in both rushing yards and yards per carry). With James Conner leaving the team in free agency, Harris should slot in as Pittsburgh's Week 1 starter with a chance to emerge as the team’s every-down workhorse, a role rarely afforded to first-year ball-carriers.
Harris’ alma mater was well-represented in the draft with the reigning national champs boasting a record six first-round picks and 10 players overall, tied for the most with Ohio State, who ‘Bama defeated in January’s title game.