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NFL

Najee Harris talks to AS: I want to be a leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers

Running back Harris hopes to build on his strong rookie season and step up into a leadership role following the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger.

Update:
Najee Harris quiere jugar con los Pittsburgh Steelers en el Azteca
Iván Pirrón

Last season, Najee Harris quickly became the leader of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backfield. This year, the sophomore running back wants to be a galvanising influence on the team as a whole.

Harris out to “be somebody who sets the tone” at Steelers

Harris was the NFL’s top rookie running back in 2021, amassing 1,667 combined yards (1,200 rushing, 467 receiving) - the most ever by a first-year Steeler. In addition, he was second among rookies with 10 touchdowns (seven rushing, three receiving) and led all RBs with 74 receptions. This year, Harris is hoping for more of the same on the pitch, but among his goals is to become a leader for the Steelers, particularly following the retirement of legendary Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

“There’s a lot of expectations from me on myself and from my coaching staff,” Harris told AS during a chat at the Steelers’ training camp in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “It’s nothing I haven’t experienced before, so I just expect to make plays as always and I expect to be a better leader. I expect to be in the mix of just being a vocal person. I’ve got to do the best I can to make big plays for the team, to be somebody who sets the tone.”

Steelers’ running backs are going to surprise people, Harris says

Harris is part of a Steelers backfield that features Anthony McFarland, Benny Snell and rookie Mataeo Durant, among others. Last season, Harris led the way with 307 rushing attempts, 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by Snell, who contributed just 36 attempts and 98 yards. Harris, however, expects the workload to be distributed differently this year.

There’s a lot of guys who are going to play some big roles,” he said. “There’s a lot of moving parts in the running back room, there’s a lot of guys trying to make the team. Everybody is hungry and we’ve got a really talented running back room. There’s a lot of guys who do real good things in certain areas. They’re always competing, so it makes me get better, because having somebody who I know is good behind me is going to create more competition for me. They make me stay on my toes.

“The running back room, I can’t say enough how talented they are and how much they want to show what they can do. I feel like this year people are going to be surprised at the guys coming out of the running back room, how much impact they’ll make for the team.”

“One day we’ll for sure find a game to play in Mexico”

Harris loves Mexican culture and, like NFL fans in the North American country, is keen for Pittsburgh to play a regular season game at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca. “We’ll lose money if we go over there, because they’ll split the revenue, but I think that one day we’ll for sure find a game to play in Mexico,” the Alabama product said. “I just don’t know when it will be. Hopefully it will be next year. I have been hearing talk about trying to find a game out there, because of how much of a fan base they’ve got. Just trying to find a date that will work out for the Steelers organisation.”

Whoever the Steelers quarterback is - Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and 2022 Draft pick Kenny Pickett are competing for the QB1 spot - they’ll have a stellar running back to aim for in Harris. In Week 3 of last season, the 24-year-old registered 14 receptions, tying with Saquon Barkley and Roy Helu for the most by a rookie RB in a single game.

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