(Photo by Sean Brady/Getty Images)
Steelers Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis made the media rounds yesterday while being at an 84 Lumber event celebrating students making their careers in skilled trades. One of the shows that Bettis appeared on was the NFL Network's Good Morning Football and the first question they asked Bettis regarded the Steelers selection of Alabama running back Najee Harris in the first round.
“You know, I was ecstatic when they made the pick," Bettis said of the Steelers drafting Harris. "I thought that they didn't really understand or recognize the error of their ways. They kind of went away for the power running game. And I think with that pick, they realized, 'We need to get back to running the football.' That was a commitment that they made, and they further cemented that with (Illinois center Kendrick Green) and the offseason acquisitions they (made) in the offensive line. So they understand and I think Najee was the perfect person for this opportunity."
Bettis also mentioned that the addition of Harris will help out Ben Roethlisberger tremendously, who attempted 608 passes last season, which was the third-most in the league.
“Getting that running game in and being balanced offensively so that they are not asking Ben to throw the ball 40 times a game ... If you are asking Ben to throw 40-50 times a game, this will probably be Ben’s last year and it probably won’t go well,” Bettis said. “But if they ask him to throw it 20-25 times a game, then you are going to see the success and I believe you’ll see a second year. Not just this year. But possibly next year, with Ben Roethlisberger at the helm.”
The Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6) last season, and the previous two years they ranked 29th (90.4) and 31st (90.3) in rushing yards per game. So, improving the run game with a top-tier running back like Harris should take more pressure off Roethlisberger and even possibly prolong his career. As Bettis mentioned, becoming more balanced on offense is a must this season, as the Steelers offensively were one-dimensional and way too predictable last year.