Steelers Were Quick To Admit Their Mistake With Kenny Pickett Now It’s Shifted To Najee Harris

With the Pittsburgh Steelers deciding to decline running back Najee Harris’ fifth-year option, they may be starting to question some of their recent first round draft pick selections. The Steelers selected Harris with the 24th overall draft pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, hoping he would be the long-term solution at running back. Now, as we sit here today, Pittsburgh is questioning if this will be Harris’ final year here. Harris will hit the open market at the end of this season assuming he doesn’t get an extension from the Steelers.

Harris, 26, has somehow managed to break records but also regress each year at the same time. Harris has had the best first three seasons of any Steelers running back ever, yet his future with Pittsburgh could be coming to an end. After being thrown into a putrid offense after being drafted, Harris was able to earn a Pro-Bowl selection his rookie season and has rushed for over 1,000 yards each year. From what seemed like a solid first round pick, to now everyone is wondering if that’s truly the case.

Harris isn’t the only recent first-round pick that didn’t pan out. Quarterback Kenny Pickett‘s time with the Steelers was obviously a blunder, essentially wasting two years. The 2022 first-round selection was eventually traded after new competition was brought in and shied away from any interest in participating. According to Pro Football Talk host Mike Florio, the Steelers are seemingly openly admitting that they could have made a mistake by drafting Harris in the first round, similarly to the Pickett selection.

“This is a team that has no qualms about doing what has to be done, even if it means in a roundabout way they’re admitting maybe that was a first round pick we shouldn’t have made. They did it with Kenny Pickett and now they’re doing it sort of with Najee Harris by not picking up the fifth year option.”

As Florio mentioned, the Steelers are not an organization that has a problem with getting rid of their first rounders and doing what they can to fix it. Pittsburgh has a temporary solution in Russell Wilson and potentially a long term solution with Justin Fields for the Pickett disaster.

It seems that the Harris pick might have been a mistake due to the fact that he has regressed since his rookie season and hasn’t been effective enough in the offense. After three seasons, Harris has averaged less than four yards per carry (3.9) and his longest rush in 2023 was 25 yards. The production over three years has still been above average, but you’d expect more from a former first rounder.

The Harris era in Pittsburgh isn’t over yet, although. Depending on the 2024 season, Harris still has the opportunity to spend a long time as the Steelers half back. It’s also important to consider that Harris and the rest of the offense has been under one of the worst offensive systems of all time ran by former offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Pittsburgh would rather see how Harris responds to Arthur Smith‘s offense instead of guaranteeing him two more years, in case he regresses again this season.

Steelers Appear Super Confident In Jaylen Warren

If Harris winds up having another disappointing season in 2024, then the Steelers have their backup plan in Jaylen Warren, who has been playing lights out as Harris’ backup. Warren has been one of the few bright spots in the Steelers’ offense over the last two seasons and could replace Harris in the foreseen future. It’s not an ideal situation, to let go of your former first round pick and replace him with an undrafted free agent, but the Steelers will do what they need to do.

While Harris to this point has averaged under four yards per carry, Warren after two seasons has averaged over five yards a carry, which is a drastic difference. To Harris’ defense, he receives a much larger workload, so it’s more challenging to put up numbers like Warren.

The Steelers have had a few rough picks with their first rounders over the past few years, but Pittsburgh will do what is required to fix it. What do you think of the Harris pick? Are the Steelers admitting that it was a mistake? How will Harris respond on the field to the declining of his option?

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