(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
The Steelers got their featured running back that they've been linked to all offseason by selecting Alabama' Najee Harris at 24th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Once the Jets traded up from No. 23 to No. 14 with the Vikings and selected guard Alijah Vera-Tucker and the Dolphins picked edge rusher Jaelan Phillips at No. 18., the Steelers had a clear path to Harris at No. 24. Oklahoma State offensive tackle Teven Jenkins and Notre Dame inside linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was also on the board when the Steelers were on the clock.
The Steelers needed to come out of the draft with a bell-cow running back and Harris fits exactly what they needed. Harris has been the favorite to land in Pittsburgh in mock drafts and numerous reports suggested that he would be the pick if he was available at No. 24. The Steelers had arguably the worst running back room in the league with Benny Snell Jr., Kallen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr. and Jaylen Samuels. Harris instantly upgrades the room. Harris would instantly bolster the Steelers' running game, which ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6) last season.
Harris finished his college career as Alabama's all-time leading rusher with 3,843 career yards. He also led the school in all-time touchdowns with 57, including a school-record 46 rushing touchdowns and another 11 receiving. Harris' 4,624 all-purpose yards rank second in school history.
Harris won the Doak Walker Award, presented to the top running back in college football, in 2020 and was a unanimous first-team All-American (Associated Press, AFCA, FWAA, The Sporting News and Walter Camp).
According to Spotrac, Harris' rookie contract with the Steelers should be four years worth $13 million that includes a $6.8 million signing bonus. His cap hit in 2021 will be $2.3 million.
Harris is the first running back to be selected by the Steelers in the first round since Rashard Mendenhall in 2008 out of Illinois. Harris is also the first Alabama player to be selected by the Steelers in the first round since fullback Butch Avinger in 1951.
Below are Harris' new teammate's reaction to him being the Steelers' first-round pick.