Najee Harris had quite the rookie year. He rushed the ball more than 300 times and was also targeted more than 90 times in the passing game. The Pittsburgh Steelers saw longtime quarterback Ben Roethlisberger retire and there will be a new-look offense for the upcoming season. The good news for Harris is that he will still be the bell-cow back and is poised for a big season.
Along with Roethlisberger, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is also no longer with the team as he left in free agency. Harris is arguably the most talented player on the offense and Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada will likely run the offensive scheme with him as a focal point.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Rushing: Harris ran the ball 307 times for 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns.
Receiving: Harris was tied for the most targets for a running back with 94. He totaled 467 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
Fantasy: Harris finished with 263.7 fantasy points as the overall RB4 in half-PPR scoring. His 15.5 fantasy points per game ranked ninth among running backs.
Steelers offseason moves
The Steelers took the first quarterback of the 2022 NFL Draft in Kenny Pickett. They then took Georgia WR George Pickens and Memphis WR Calvin Austin III with two of their next three picks to build their offense for the future.
It will be a quarterback position battle between Pickett and free-agent signee Mitchell Trubisky who was brought in on a two-year deal. The team also signed C Mason Cole, Guard James Daniel, DB Levi Wallace, LB Myles Jack and DT Larry Ogunjobi in free agency.
2022 best case scenario
The best case scenario for Harris is that he doesn’t see a huge regression from his involvement in the passing game. If either Trubisky or Pickett can run Canada’s offensive scheme better than Roethlisberger, it could open up more work for Harris. I don’t know if he will get back to 300 touches, but if the offense improves, Pittsburgh will be running later into games than a year ago which could see him still highly involved and finishing as a top-three running back in fantasy.
2022 worst case scenario
The worst case for Harris is a drastic over-correction to his 2021 workload. If he drops 100 carries or if Trubisky or Pickett can mesh well with the receivers to open up the passing game, Harris would see less work. We know the Steelers' defense is going to be among the league’s best, and if their offense is more efficient it isn’t crazy to think that Harris could be celebrating on the sideline with a good amount of time left in the fourth quarter to keep him healthy.
Harris is an absolute beast with how he works out and his mentality on and off the field. I do think he falls short of the 300 touches he got a year ago, but the depth chart doesn’t frighten me. I think he lands somewhere in the 225-250 carry range for over 1,000 yards and he will see an uptick in rushing touchdowns. His receiving numbers are going to come down, but he is still going to be a top running back in fantasy. I think he finishes as a top-six running back in half-PPR scoring this year.