Najee Harris received a huge workload from the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first season in the NFL. However, he’s fine with shouldering an even bigger burden in 2022 – as long as he pays dividends in the win column.
Harris, who led the league with 381 touches in 2021, was asked during an appearance on the “Rich Eisen Show” if he could hit the 400-touch mark in Year 2. Harris suggested he could do even more than that.
“I’ll take 500, [expletive]”, Harris said. “Listen, I didn’t have a problem with that. It was the media that had a problem with that. I told them at every game, ‘If this is how we’re winning, I can carry the burden.’ I train to carry loads. It’s not something I haven’t done before. I did it in college, in high school, in the NFL.
“For me to get so many shipments, I was like, ‘Man, are we winning games?’ It was a long string where someone was saying if I have 25 loads then we’re undefeated. So OK, this is our identity here. Let’s get on with it. Listen, if I get 500 loads, as long as ‘ is winning, it doesn’t really matter.”
Harris performed well in his rookie season with the Steelers. He rushed for 1,200 yards and had another 467 receiving yards, scoring 10 touchdowns along the way.
A heavy workload for Harris usually led to good results for Pittsburgh as well. In the eight games in which Harris had at least 25 touches, the Steelers went 6-1-1.
No player in NFL history has recorded 500 touches in a season (former Buccaneers runner James Wilder came closest with 492 in 1984). And according to conversations on the Steelers field, Harris won’t come anywhere near that mark in his second season.
Running back coach Eddie Faulkner told The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly about his plan to lighten Harris’ load a little in 2022, even though it might be difficult considering the running back’s talent.
“We always look [finding ways to preserve Harris] and how we can better support him and maybe keep him a little bit fresher for a play here or there throughout the game,” Faulkner told Kaboly in June. “But man, it’s tough. He’s good at everything.”
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Harris admitted that he is informed about his workload and how it can be eased in 2022.
“I’ll be on the field a lot, but on certain downhills, I won’t be on the field just [to limit] the hits. I won’t be there for certain plays, but we still have time to talk about it because I want to play. Much.”
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