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Will Najee Harris break Franco Harris' franchise rookie rushing record this year?

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

(Photo by Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

Franco Harris rushed for 1,055 yards on 188 carries (5.7 average) and 10 touchdowns in his rookie season in 1972, which was just a 14-game schedule then. Harris was named Offensive Rookie of the Year for his efforts and his 1,055 rushing yards remain a franchise record for a rookie running back.

Along with his 1,055 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns, Harris also had 21 receptions for 180 yards (8.6 average) and a touchdown in his rookie year. Harris' hands would help him in the playoffs that year when he caught the "Immaculate Reception" and ran for a touchdown to secure a 13-7 victory for the Steelers over the Raiders to advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Steelers selected running back Najee Harris out of Alabama at 24th overall in this year's draft and they're expecting him to be the bell-cow running back to help bolster their ailing rushing attack. The Steelers ranked dead last in rushing yards per game (84.4) and yards per carry (3.6) last season.

Due to the expected high volume of carries that Harris should receive in Year 1, Jarad Evans of Pro Football Focus has the Alabama product as the No. 1 rookie running back for fantasy football in 2021.

"The Steelers drafted Harris to be their next Le’Veon Bell — a true bell cow running back capable of handling a monster workload," Evans wrote of Harris. "From 2013-2017, Bell averaged a whopping 24.9 touches per game. That's the type of workload that fantasy managers dream of — Christian McCaffrey averaged 25.1 touches per game in his record-breaking 2019 season.

"Jump all over any Harris discount that arises out of concern for Pittsburgh’s reigning 31st-ranked run-blocking offensive line. The former Alabama standout impacts the game as both a runner and receiver with the size and strength to hold up as an every-down playmaker."

If Harris can stay healthy and absorb a ton of carries, he could possibly break Harris' rookie franchise record of 1,055 yards rushing, and even his 10 rushing touchdown mark. If so, it would mean great things for the Steelers running game as they haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Le'Veon Bell in 2017.

Prior to the selection of Harris, Bell was the highest pick at the running back position since the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round in 2008. Bell was a second-round selection in 2013 and rushed for 860 yards on 244 carries (3.5 average) and eight touchdowns in 13 games in his rookie year. Bell also had 45 receptions for 399 yards (8.9 average) in his rookie campaign.

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