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Najee Harris Drafted by Steelers: Pittsburgh's Updated Depth Chart After Round 1

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

National Team running back Najee Harris of Alabama (22) walks to the sideline during the National team practice for the NCAA college Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

Running back Najee Harris will begin his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers after being selected No. 24 overall in the 2021 NFL draft. 

The Alabama star played four seasons in college, including each of the last two as the starter. He ran for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns in 13 games as a senior in 2020 to help the Crimson Tide win the national championship.

Harris left Alabama as the school's all-time leader in rushing yards (3,843) and rushing touchdowns (46) and third in rushing attempts (638). 

Here's a look at where he fits in on the Steelers' depth chart as it stands right now:

    

QB - Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Joshua Dobbs, Dwayne Haskins

RB - Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Anthony McFarland Jr., Kalen Ballage

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FB - Derek Watt, Jaylen Samuels

WR 1 - JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ray-Ray McCloud, Cody White

WR 2 - Chase Claypool, Anthony Johnson

WR 3 - Diontae Johnson, James Washington 

TE - Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, Charles Jones, Kevin Rader, Dax Raymond

LT - Chukwuma Okorafor, Jarron Jones

LG - Kevin Dotson, Brandon Walton

C - J.C. Hassenauer, B.J. Finney

RG - David DeCastro, Aviante Collins

RT - Zach Banner, Joe Haeg, Anthony Coyle

     

When Harris originally committed to Alabama in April 2015, he was ranked as the best high school running back in the country and No. 2 overall prospect in his recruiting class by 247Sports' composite rankings

The California native played behind Damien Harris during his first two seasons in Tuscaloosa. He was finally given the starting job in 2019. He got off to a slow start with 156 total rushing yards in the first three games but settled in to finish with 1,088 yards over the last 10 games. 

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com ranked the 22-year-old as the best running back in the 2021 draft class and highlighted his versatility as his greatest strength. 

"Harris is big, but with the skills of a scat back," he wrote. "He has the size, strength and power to run through defenses as a between-the-tackles grinder, but he also displays the soft hands and receiving skills to be a legitimate weapon in the passing game."

Harris did prove his pass-catching credentials at Alabama. He caught 70 passes for 729 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons. 

Given the success of recent Crimson Tide running backs in the NFL, including Damien Harris and Derrick Henry, Najee is coming into the league with a lot of pressure. But he had no problems handling it in college and looks poised to make an immediate impact. 

The Steelers let James Conner leave as a free agent, opening the door for the team to select Harris in the draft. 

Harris' style of running should fit perfectly with the way offensive coordinator Matt Canada calls games. They use very little play-action passing, so there's no attempt to disguise a run or pass after the ball is snapped. 

Given Ben Roethlisberger's limitations as a downfield passer at this stage of his career, the Steelers need a dominant running game to maximize the potential of their offense. Harris should immediately step in as Pittsburgh's lead running back in 2021.

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