Hot Takes for Najee Harris, More Steelers Stars Ahead of Training Camp

Joe TanseyJuly 6, 2022

Hot Takes for Najee Harris, More Steelers Stars Ahead of Training Camp

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2022 NFL season with one of the most intriguing offensive units.

    Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth form an established core that was added to with the draft selections of George Pickens and Calvin Austin.

    The established stars inside the Pittsburgh offense will be asked to do more in the first few weeks of the 2022 regular season as rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett gets used to the offense and the speed of NFL play.

    Pickett's learning curve could result in a more active September for Harris, who could be in contention for the NFL's rushing title.

    Johnson and Claypool may see their numbers take a hit early on, but if they develop a strong chemistry with Pickett, they could both chase 1,000-yard seasons.

    Freiermuth has the most potential to take a leap into superstardom at his position in 2022. The Penn State product produced seven touchdowns in his rookie season, and he could end his sophomore campaign as one of the game's top tight ends.

Najee Harris Takes Aim at 1,500 Yard Season and Rushing Title

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    Najee Harris' name atop the NFL rushing leaderboard should not surprise anyone.

    The Alabama product ran for 1,200 yards in his rookie season. He finished a distant second behind Jonathan Taylor (1,811), though, for the NFL's rushing title.

    Harris could pose a tougher challenge to Taylor in the rushing title race in 2022 because of how much the Steelers will call on him with a rookie quarterback on the field.

    The Steelers relied a lot on Harris with Ben Roethlisberger under center, and they could rely on his experience in the pocket to work with the wide receiver corps.

    Kenny Pickett may take a few games to adjust to the speed of the NFL, and that may result in a heavier reliance on Harris in September.

    A strong start could propel Harris to the top of the rushing leaderboard, and he may not leave that position.

    Harris only had one 100-yard rushing performance in the first eight games of his rookie season. He could easily eclipse that in 2022 with a larger set of responsibilities.

    Harris can also increase his touchdown production and become one of the most coveted fantasy football running backs.

    He reached the end zone seven times on the ground in 2022. It is not unrealistic to think he will double that touchdown total if Pittsburgh increases its red-zone trips under Pickett.

Steelers Produce Pair of 1,000 Yard Receivers

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    The Steelers were 140 receiving yards short of having two 1,000-yard wideouts last season.

    Those numbers came with an ageing Ben Roethlisberger under center, who was unable to unleash deep balls or move in the pocket successfully.

    Pittsburgh's passing game could take a few steps forward if Pickett grasps the offense right away and shows few weaknesses adapting to the NFL game.

    Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool do not have to worry about James Washington and JuJu Smith-Schuster cutting into any playing time.

    The rookie pair of George Pickens and Calvin Austin could emerge as reliable targets throughout the season, but to start, Johnson and Claypool should receive the bulk of the receptions inside the Pittsburgh offense.

    Johnson recorded 107 receptions and 1,161 receptions off 169 targets last season. Claypool caught 59 of his 105 targets for 860 yards.

    If Claypool improves on his 56.2 reception percentage, he can make a push for the 1,000-yard mark. Johnson should be on that pace from the start of the season as the team's No. 1 target.

    Pittsburgh's best-case scenario is that both wide receivers have 1,000-yard seasons and the rookie duo of Pickens and Austin contribute in supporting roles to give the team an offense worthy of qualifying for the postseason.

Pat Freiermuth Enters Premier Tight End Conversation

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    Be prepared to hear Pat Freiermuth's name a lot more in 2022.

    The 2021 second-round pick had 497 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie season.

    He would be the reason that Johnson or Claypool do not reach the 1,000-yard mark because of how often he could be targeted by Pickett.

    Freiermuth caught 60 of his 79 targets over 16 games last season. He averaged 8.3 yards per catch and proved to be a reliable threat in the red zone.

    Freiermuth should already have the attention of fantasy football players because of his scoring output.

    He could add to his fantasy value and stock among NFL tight ends if he adds a few hundred yards to his receiving total. That is possible if he becomes a reliable target across the middle for his rookie quarterback.

    Freiermuth's high catch rate and red-zone presence could take him from the middle tier of NFL tight ends to as high as one of the top five players at his position if everything goes right in 2022.

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