Najee Harris

RB Notes: Jacobs, Patriots, Steelers, Hill

Coming off just the NFL’s 11th performance with 300 yards from scrimmage, Josh Jacobs is not expected to practice much this week. The Raiders running back suffered a calf strain during his monster outing against the Seahawks, Tom Pelissero of tweets. Planning to go through “around the clock” treatment, Jacobs said (via The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, on Twitter) he is not planning to miss any time.

Of course, that expectation will be tested. Calf strains can sideline players for multiple weeks. Jacobs handled a career-high 39 touches in Las Vegas’ overtime win in Seattle, finishing with 303 scrimmage yards. He now leads the league in rushing (1,159 yards) and is making a strong case for a second Raiders contract, despite the team having passed on his fifth-year option. The Alabama alum has stayed relatively healthy during his career, having never missed more than three games in a season. But missing time due to this calf ailment would give Jacobs at least one absence in each of his four seasons.

Here is the latest from the running back scene:

  • The Patriots are not expected to have Damien Harris available against the Bills on Thursday. Harris left the Pats’ Thanksgiving Day game with a thigh injury, and’s Ian Rapoport notes (via Twitter) that issue will keep him out in Week 13 and potentially for more games. One of several starter-caliber backs set to hit free agency in March, Harris has battled multiple injuries this season and seen Rhamondre Stevenson emerge as New England’s primary back. This certainly points to the former third-round pick needing to find another team to dole out his second contract.
  • Najee Harris also left his team’s most recent game due to injury, seeing an abdominal issue force him to leave the Steelers‘ Monday-night win over the Colts. Harris avoided a major injury, however, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). It is not certain the second-year back plays Sunday, but after he battled a Lisfranc issue this offseason, dodging another notable injury represents a nice break. The Steelers were without rookie backup Jaylen Warren in Indianapolis due to a hamstring injury and used veteran Benny Snell as their top ball-carrier.
  • The Commanders worked out a familiar NFC East back this week, bringing in Jordan Howard. The well-traveled back stopped through Washington for a Tuesday workout, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Former Panthers backup Reggie Bonnafon also took part in this audition. Howard spent time with the Saints this season, playing in two games, but New Orleans released the ex-Chicago and Philadelphia starter from its practice squad earlier this month.
  • Despite using one of their injury activations on Kylin Hill this year, the Packers cut bait recently. Matt LaFleur said conduct contributed to the transaction. “There are standards and expectations that are placed on every member of this team that we expect guys to live up to,” LaFleur said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “He’s a guy we had high expectations for, and [I] realize he’s in a loaded room, but regardless of your role big or small, we expect guys to come to work and be supportive and own that role to the best of your ability. If you don’t do that, that’s what happened.” This certainly points to the second-year back voicing dissatisfaction with being behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon on Green Bay’s depth chart. No team claimed Hill, who is now a free agent.

Steelers’ T.J. Watt, Najee Harris Ruled Out With Injuries

9:40pm: Mike Giardi of NFL Network reports that a source has informed him that Harris’s foot injury is not considered serious. This is extremely optimistic news for the Steelers considering they were forced to turn to undrafted rookie Jaylen Warren in Harris’s absence.

4:08pm: Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets that Watt will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine if his and the team’s fears of a torn pectoral muscle are indeed true.

3:59pm: The Steelers have suffered injuries to arguably their two most irreplaceable players. Edge rusher T.J. Watt and running back Najee Harris have each been ruled out of the remainder of the team’s contest against the Bengals with pectoral and foot injuries, respectively (Twitter link via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).

Watt appeared to suffer his injury in the fourth quarter. When walking off the field, he seemed to indicate that he had torn his pectoral muscle, Pryor’s colleague Field Yates tweets. Any significant absence for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year could be crippling for the Steelers.

Watt led the league in sacks for the second straight year in 2021, notching 22.5. That provided a fruitful return on investment for Pittsburgh, after they signed him to a four-year, $112MM deal in the lead-up to the campaign. The 27-year-old was only eclipsed by Aaron Donald this summer as the league’s highest-paid defender with annual average of over $28MM per year.

Even with Watt at full health, depth in the edge rush department had been seen as a need for the team this offseason. As a result, it came as little surprise when they traded for Malik Reed from the Broncos. He would be next in line to take on a starting role, and Pittsburgh would need to be active in looking for veteran additions in a similar vein to their Melvin Ingram addition last season.

The fact that Harris’ injury was a foot ailment is also concerning, given that fact that he suffered a Lisfranc sprain in training camp. He had recovered in time to play the Steelers’ season opener, though he only received 10 carries before exiting the game. After his Pro Bowl rookie season last year, Harris is expected to once again be a focal point of the team’s offense and would represent a massive loss in the event of an extended absence.

The Steelers have beaten the Bengals after a wild overtime finish, but the victory may very well have come at an enormous cost.

Latest On Najee Harris

There are plenty of unknowns with respect to the passing game in the Steelers’ passing offense, but their running game is set to once again be predicated on 2021 first-rounder Najee Harris

The Alabama product has been limited throughout the summer, however, due to a foot injury. Providing more context on the matter, Harris revealed that the ailment (suffered during the team’s first full practice at the start of training camp) was a Lisfranc sprain.

“I never did just get my foot stepped on,” he said, via Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review“That is why I was out the majority of camp.” Harris added that the prognosis called for a four-to-six week recovery timetable, leaving him with a very light preseason workload. His only August action came yesterday, where he played with the offensive starters and totalled seven touches and 21 scrimmage yards.

Not surprisingly, the 24-year-old admitted that he is “just now getting over it.” More importantly, his ability to play yesterday points to him being fully recovered in time for the regular season. That will be a welcomed sight for the Steelers, of course; Harris ran for exactly 1,300 yards as a rookie, adding 467 yards in the passing game and scoring 10 total touchdowns. He was named a Pro Bowler as a result, and figures to be the focal point of the team’s offense again in 2022.

After he led the NFL in touches, though, Pittsburgh was reported to be in the market for a more proven depth option. Not long after, they signed former Titan Jeremy McNichols to compete with Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland JrHarris still faces one of the heaviest workloads in the league, however, so his continued recovery in the build-up to Week 1 will be crucial to Pittsburgh’s success transitioning to an offense featuring many new faces.

Steelers Could Add RB; Najee Harris To Remain Workhorse

There aren’t many questions surrounding the Steelers’ approach to the running back position. As a rookie last season, Najee Harris put forth a workload worthy of a Pro Bowl selection and accounted for around 75% of Pittsburgh’s rush attempts, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. While that may not sound overwhelming, the next closest player, Benny Snell Jr., only accounted for about 8% of the team’s rush attempts and 6% of the team’s rushing yards. Despite the seemingly small contribution, Snell is still the favorite to back up Harris next season, according to The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly. 

The Steelers’ offensive backfield doesn’t have a ton of experience. The oldest running back on their roster, Trey Edmunds, 27, has never started a game, has 31 career carries, and hasn’t had a carry since November 2019. Every other running back on the roster is 24 years old or younger. After Kalen Ballage announced he was stepping away from the NFL to coach, Pittsburgh’s roster only holds three running backs who had carries for the Steelers in the 2021 season: Harris, Snell, and Anthony McFarland Jr. After them and Edmunds, the only backs on the roster are two undrafted rookies: Mataeo Durant and Jaylen Warren.

McFarland currently has too small a sample size to depend on. During his two years in the league, McFarland has played in 13 games, carrying the ball 36 times for 116 yards. Last year, he only appeared in two games. He had three carries and three yards in those two games. Whether it’s health, size, or ability, Snell is clearly the preferred backup option over McFarland right now.

Snell has had more opportunities to showcase his abilities than McFarland. Snell was around for two years before Harris showed up, backing up James Conner. In those two years, Snell got the opportunity to start five games and contribute in many more. Kaboly compiled the stats of Snell’s starts and any game in which he had at least 12 carries, a total of ten games. Omitting an anomalous start against Washington in 2020, Snell averaged 17 carries for 72 yards per game, averaging 4.2 yards per rush in those nine games. In a full season of those opportunities, Snell would project at 1,150 yards.

Snell’s body of work in previous seasons supports the argument that he can be relied upon as Harris’ relief. But, even if the Steelers did want to add another back to the stable, what options do they have? They have the option of having the backup running backs reflect the Ravens’ starters from last year following season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, as Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman are available. (Even if Le’Veon Bell were planning to play in 2022, and not focus on a potential boxing career, his Steelers past and recent performance likely makes him a non-starter here.) Past those three, veterans Carlos Hyde, David Johnson, and Devontae Booker are all free agents. Are any of these options an improvement on Snell? Potentially, but it may not be worth the money and playbook study necessary to bring them level with where Snell is at now.

More potential names could surface as team’s trim their rosters down to the final 53. Myles Gaskin in Miami, Chris Carson in Seattle, Tevin Coleman in New York, and D’Onta Foreman in Carolina could all be on the chopping block come late August and find themselves looking for work.

Still, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Pittsburgh doesn’t enter the 2022 season with a 1-2-3 of Harris-Snell-McFarland. As attractive as those other options may sound, Pittsburgh has no interest in reducing Harris’ carries. If healthy, Harris will continue his role as a bell-cow, with Snell and McFarland only appearing in rare moments of exhaustion or for special situations. McFarland has shown he can play in a situational role and Snell has proven he can be effective when given a bulk-carry opportunity (for instance, if Harris gets injured), but the importance of the question of who backs ups Harris is moot as long as Harris stays healthy.

Poll: Which Rookie Running Back Will Finish With Most Rushing Yards?

Quarterbacks, per usual, dominated this year’s pre-draft coverage. The Falcons made Kyle Pitts the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history, and four wide receivers then went off the board in the top 20. Running backs, as they have done in a few drafts over the past decade, waited.

While two went in Round 1, the Jaguars’ Travis Etienne pick preceded a 60-pick stretch during which just one running back — the Broncos’ Javonte Williams choice — went off the board. The 2021 draft matches 2016 and 2003 for the fewest backs chosen in the top 80 (three) in the common draft era (1967-present), continuing a grim era for this once-storied position. But several of this year’s draftees have quick paths to key roles.

Linked to Najee Harris ahead of the draft, the Steelers took the Alabama standout at No. 24. Harris will join a Steelers team that ranked last in rushing in 2020. Although the Alabama product scored 30 touchdowns in his senior season and topped 1,200 rushing yards in two straight years, he will now play behind an offensive line that went through considerable turnover this offseason. The Steelers lost 17 Pro Bowls on their offensive line this year. They will replace Maurkice Pouncey and Alejandro Villanueva with far less experienced players, and David DeCastro‘s replacement (Trai Turner) struggled in 2020. Will Harris’ talent be enough to overcome significant O-line concerns in Pittsburgh?

Etienne joins a Jags team that just saw James Robinson set the rookie UDFA record for scrimmage yards (1,414) despite missing two games in 2020. Jacksonville also signed Carlos Hyde, who played for Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Etienne spent time at receiver during the Jags’ offseason program but should be expected to contribute heavily in the backfield. Like Harris, Etienne stayed in college for four years. He twice surpassed 1,600 rushing yards and totaled 78 college TDs — most of which coming alongside No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence — but will this unusual setup (for a first-round back, that is) translate to rookie-year production?

The Broncos traded up four spots for Williams in Round 2, Pro Football Focus’ top-rated back in this class, and chose the North Carolina product 36th overall. Williams teamed with Jets draftee Michael Carter to form one of the nation’s top backfield tandems. Williams compiled just one 1,000-yard season with the Tar Heels but led Division I-FBS with 75 broken tackles in 2020. The Broncos have Melvin Gordon signed through 2021, but the John Elway-era addition does not appear to be a lock to hold off Williams for the starting role.

The rest of the rookie field includes third-rounder Trey Sermon (49ers), Carter (fourth round, Jets) and a host of backs ticketed for early-career backup roles. While injuries certainly will hit the running back position, potentially forcing some of the later-round picks into the fray, Sermon and Carter have the best bets of seeing steady action among the mid- and late-round selections.

An Oklahoma and Ohio State product, Sermon also played four years. He averaged more than seven yards per carry in each of his past two, though he never topped 1,000 on the ground. Lead 49ers back Raheem Mostert is coming off an injury-marred season. The Jets added Tevin Coleman, who joined Mostert in missing most of last season, but do not have another back with much experience. This could allow Carter (two 1,000-yard years at North Carolina) early upward mobility, despite his 5-foot-8 frame.

Which rookie back will rush for the most yards in 2021? Who are the later-round candidates or UDFAs who can join these players as early contributors? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Steelers Sign First-Round Pick Najee Harris

The Steelers have their guy. Pittsburgh has officially signed first-round pick running back Najee Harris to his rookie contract, the team announced Tuesday.

It’ll be a four-year deal worth a fully guaranteed $13.1MM for the 24th overall pick. Harris will collect a signing bonus of $6.85MM. Harris to the Steelers was one of the most buzzed about connections leading up to the draft, and the rumors turned out to be accurate. He was the first running back off the board, taken one pick before Clemson’s Travis Etienne.

Pittsburgh was widely expected to draft a runner early, as they’ve emphasized the need for a revamped ground game after they got nothing from their rushing attack in 2020. They let James Conner walk in free agency, and opted for the former Alabama star to replace him.

Harris will slot in as the team’s immediate starter, and the Steelers are reportedly planning on having him play a big role as a pass-catcher. The California native rushed for a ridiculous 26 touchdowns last season, and averaged at least 5.8 yards per carry in all four of his college seasons.

He’ll now be lining up behind and next to Ben Roethlisberger, at least for one season. Harris has the talent to be a top back in the league, the question now is how the Steelers’ new-look offensive line will perform.

Steelers Select Alabama RB Najee Harris At No. 24

The Steelers have been connected to first-round running backs throughout the pre-draft process, and everyone’s inkling proved to be correct. With the No. 24 pick, Pittsburgh selected Alabama running back Najee Harris.

Initially buried on the depth chart, the Alabama product broke out as a junior in 2019 with an average of 5.9 yards per tote. Then, he passed on the draft to turn in an even more impressive 2020 season. Harris helped the Tide capture yet another National Championship while racking up 1,466 yards on the ground with similar efficiency (5.8 ypc). Those totals, coupled with 43 grabs for 425 yards and 30 total touchdowns, positioned Harris as one of the strongest prospects in the ’21 class.

Harris was connected to a number of RB-needy squads throughout the pre-draft process. While the prospect may lack the explosiveness of the NFL’s top running backs, he’s a dependable back who can contribute in every aspect of the offense. Those skills should allow Harris to see the field immediately for his new team. This is especially true in Pittsburgh, as the team lost top running back James Conner earlier this offseason. Harris will likely take the veteran’s place atop the depth chart, with Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland, and Kalen Ballage serving as potential backups.

With this selection, Alabama has tied the 2004 Miami squad for most first-round picks in a single draft. Alabama’s count currently sits at six: Harris, WR Jaylen Waddle (No. 6, Dolphins), CB Patrick Surtain II (No. 9, Broncos), WR DeVonta Smith (No. 10, Eagles), QB Mac Jones (No. 15, Patriots), and OL Alex Leatherwood (No. 17, Raiders).

Steelers Eyeing Zaven Collins, Najee Harris?

The Steelers are keeping their fingers crossed for linebacker Zaven Collins and running back Najee Harris, according to a source who spoke with Mike Florio of PFT. However, according to many prognosticators, both players are likely to be off the board by the time the Steelers make their pick at No. 24 overall.

[RELATED: “Doubtful” Steelers Will Trade Up From No. 24]

Earlier this week, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert threw cold water on the notion that the Steelers will trade up from their original first-round choice. Of course, things can always change, especially if the Steelers are truly locked in on Harris and Collins.

Harris is widely regarded as the best running back in this year’s draft. Initially buried on the depth chart, the Alabama product emerged as a junior with an average of 5.9 yards per tote. Then, he passed on the draft to turn in an even more impressive 2020 season. Harris helped the Tide capture yet another National Championship while racking up 1,466 yards on the ground with similar efficiency (5.8 ypc). Those totals, coupled with 43 grabs for 425 yards and 30 total touchdowns, positioned Harris as one of the strongest prospects in the ’21 class.

Unfortunately for the Steelers, both Harris and Collins have caught the attention of the Cardinals at No. 16. Collins, a Tulsa product, has been lauded for his versatility. In just eight games last year, Collins managed four sacks, 54 total stops, and 7.5 tackles for loss. With the ability to play as a pass rusher or pure linebacker, he’s been quietly moving up boards in recent weeks. On Thursday, we’ll find out if he’s out of the Steelers’ reach.

Dolphins Doing Extensive Work On Draft’s Top RBs

The Dolphins’ running back depth chart may look different after the draft’s early rounds. They are doing considerable homework on this year’s top prospects.

Armed with the No. 18 overall pick and two second-round selections, the Dolphins have spent “significant” time talking to Najee Harris (Alabama), Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Members of Miami’s coaching staff and front office have also held multiple Zoom meetings with Travis Etienne (Clemson) and Javonte Williams (North Carolina).

In addition to virtual meetings with Harris, Jackson adds the Dolphins spent extensive time with the former Crimson Tide starter at the Senior Bowl. The prep the Dolphins are doing at this position has reached the point where it would surprise if they do not exit the second round with a starter-caliber back, Jackson adds.

The Dolphins hold the Nos. 36 and 50 picks in Round 2.’s Daniel Jeremiah does not expect a running back to go in the first round this year, but it would certainly be possible all three are gone by No. 50. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay’s latest ESPN mock draft has all three gone by No. 36, potentially putting the Dolphins on the trade-up radar.

Miami was connected to running backs last year but elected to fill the position with veterans. Neither the Jordan Howard nor Matt Breida additions moved the needle much, with former seventh-round pick Myles Gaskin operating as the Fins’ top back for most of 2020. Gaskin and longtime Rams backup Malcolm Brown are now Miami’s top two backs. They figure to be joined by a rookie, perhaps a high-end talent, after the draft.

Etienne was considered perhaps last year’s top prospect, but the Clemson back made the rare (for running backs) decision to return for his senior season. His yards-per-carry figure dropped from 7.8 to 5.4 last year. Etienne, however, has two 1,600-yard seasons and 70 career rushing TDs on his resume. Harris dominated in the COVID-19-altered 2020 season, totaling 1,891 scrimmage yards and 30 TDs last season to help the Crimson Tide win another national title. One of two Tar Heels backs who will be drafted, Williams forced 76 missed tackles on just 127 carries. Dolphins backs’ 19 broken tackles ranked 30th in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus.

The Dolphins have not used a first- or second-round pick on a running back in 10 years (Daniel Thomas, Round 2), and teams like the Steelers and Bills are on the radar to draft a top back in the first round. GM Chris Grier has not been shy about trading or acquiring picks, so it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins move into better position to acquire one of the top backs next week.

Alabama’s Devonta Smith, Najee Harris Pass Medical Checks

Two of Alabama’s brightest stars got good news on Wednesday. Running back Najee Harris’ ankle checked out well with “no concerns,” according to’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Meanwhile, wide receiver Devonta Smith’s dislocated finger is said to be healing fine, despite his torn ligaments. 

[RELATED: NFL Teams Expect Falcons To Draft Kyle Pitts?]

Harris is viewed as one of the best running backs in this year’s class. Teams have been keeping tabs on his recovery, but his ankle shouldn’t affect his stock, according to sources who spoke with RapSheet. Harris, a skilled pass-catcher, set Alabama records with 57 total touchdowns, 3,843 rushing yards, and 46 rushing TDs. His pass-catching ability is a major plus, though teams are equally intrigued by his combination of power and elusiveness.

Smith, meanwhile, is viewed as one of the three best wide receivers in this year’s class — somewhere behind Ja’Marr Chase and neck-and-neck with teammate Jaylen Waddle. While Waddle is known for his high-end speed, Smith has drawn rave reviews for his soft hands and ability to win 50/50 balls. His finger shouldn’t cause any long term issues, so it’d be a surprise to see him slip outside of the top ten.