Fantasy Alert: Najee Harris, Steelers Discuss Reducing Workload in 2nd Season

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJune 9, 2022

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 25: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) takes part in a drill during the team's OTA practice on May 25, 2022, at the Steelers Practice Facility in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are discussing dialing back Najee Harris' role a bit after he shouldered a heavy burden as a rookie.

"We are doing that a lot this year [that] I will not be on the field, I guess, [as much]," Harris told reporters Tuesday. "I will be on the field a lot, but on certain downs I will not be on the field. Just [pick my spots], I guess. Extra rest."

The 2021 Pro Bowler led the NFL in touches in his first year, logging 307 carries and catching 74 passes.

The Steelers don't have much choice but to trim back Harris' workload a bit to better preserve his long-term health.

Per Stathead, he was one of eight players over the last 10 years to eclipse 380 touches. While he's part of a star-studded group, it's not exactly a great distinction to have.

Arian Foster, Derrick Henry and Christian McCaffrey missed time through injury the following season after hitting that threshold. Le'Veon Bell missed the entire 2018 season because of his contract dispute with the Steelers and was never the same after leaving Pittsburgh. Likewise, DeMarco Murray never replicated his All-Pro campaign of 2014.

Steelers running backs coach Eddie Faulkner told The Athletic's Mark Kaboly that Harris is a bit of an outlier.

"To be honest, and people think I am crazy when I say this, but he's just built for it," he said of the 6'1", 232-pound running back. "I am not saying just physically how he is built, but how he trains. He trains to play a lot of plays in a game."

Still, history isn't on Harris' side in matching his usage from 2021.

The 24-year-old is bound to get plenty of looks in 2022.

The Steelers didn't sign or draft another running back to challenge Harris. Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr. are poised to be the top backups. Considering either Mitchell Trubisky or Kenny Pickett will be the starting quarterback, the passing game won't suddenly be the sole focus of the offense, either.

From a fantasy perspective, there's little reason to think Harris will take a big step backward in his second season.