The Steelers needed a running back. In round one, they targeted one. And when he was available with the 24th overall pick, they pounced on Alabama running back Najee Harris.
“Najee is a well-rounded running back that played in a pro system,” Steelers G.M. Kevin Colbert said in a recent appearance on PFT PM. “He made NFL runs routinely, and he could also play in the passing game, both as a receiver and as a blocker. He’s basically a three-down back coming from an NFL-like system, plugging into a similar type system. He made NFL runs at the collegiate level. He did it at a high level. He helped them win a national championship, so hopefully he can help us win some games.”
Given that Harris comes from Alabama, and in light of the fact that Alabama coach Nick Saban has said that few NFL teams call him to get input on players, Colbert was asked whether the Steelers spoke to Saban about Harris.
“No, we didn’t,” Colbert said. “We have several contacts there. Usually, we won’t get into contacting a head coach unless there’s really one specific question. Those guys have to deal with several players and hundreds of different types of calls. That’s one part of their job, and I’m sure they would help if need be. But we’re very sensitive to the head coach’s availability and time. Occasionally we will reach out, but most often we do not.”
Colbert also addressed the broader issue of improving the running back. A first-round tailback is only part of the equation.
“Well, we think anytime you talk about the running game, you talk about what starts up front,” Colbert said. “You talk about your receivers being able to get open, your quarterback being able to complete passes. Having a well-rounded passing game that opens up for the running back in addition with having a capable runner. We had capable runners last year. Our offensive line went through a transition. Hopefully, we’re going to come out the other side of it. It’s comprehensive. When we had the opportunity to take a guy like Najee, we think that’ll help significantly with our run game.”
The Steelers definitely need that. Last year, they finished 32nd in rushing. They need more balance if they’re going to finish 2021 better than they finished 2020.