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Najee Harris 2021 Outlook


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What set Bell apart was running behind a top-3 Oline and having a few Hall of Fame caliber players in the passing game drawing away defensive attention.

Once Bell tried to recreate his earlier success with a lesser surrounding cast, he was a complete carastrophe.

But since this is the Najee Harris thread, let's discuss Najee Harris.  Pittsburgh obviously believed they were a good and durable main running back away from having an effective running game, so they went with Harris in the 2nd round.  Miami should have taken Harris but they didn't.  Great landing spot in Pittsburg.  Low end RB1 in fantasy for 2021 seems eminently reasonable.

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Regardless of what happened with a different player a number of years ago I'm eyeballing Harris hard at the 1st/2nd round elbow in standard. Gonna be pissed if he's gone actually. 

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6 hours ago, Savatage79 said:

Coming from the made of glass James conner era, its an exciting prospect 

Conner missed one game due to injury last year.

More importantly, and I won't stop stressing this, he was an ELITE RB last year. Seriously, he was amazing. And nobody noticed.

I've already pointed out that he broke tackles at the same rate as Alvin Kamara last year, but how about this:

Through the first 8 games of the 2020 season Conner was 5th in the league is yards created vs expected. Better than Derrick Henry, Aaron Jones, Kamara, etc.

The dude had no blocking, and made everything happen through his own sheer talent and force of will.

The James  Conner slander has to stop. He was healthy last year, and he was awesome running the ball.

... Carry on. 

Edit - Chart: w1-8-ycoe.jpg?_gl=1*10n1c7q*_ga*YW1wLXBU

Edited by ajs723
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I know this is the Najee thread so I will say I think he's a meaningful upgrade over Conner. 

That being said, showing Conner's performance in weeks 1-8 screams of cherry picking, how does that look for the whole season? He's never played 16 games in a season so I don't think it's outlandish to call him injury prone.

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3 minutes ago, trilly said:

I know this is the Najee thread so I will say I think he's a meaningful upgrade over Conner. 

That being said, showing Conner's performance in weeks 1-8 screams of cherry picking, how does that look for the whole season? He's never played 16 games in a season so I don't think it's outlandish to call him injury prone.

Bro. It's not cherry picking. The Steelers completely stopped running the ball in the 2nd half of the season. There's nothing to look at. He averaged single digit rushing attempts in the 5 games he played in the second half of the season (2 missed due to Covid, one to injury). Meanwhile, Ben was throwing the ball 50 plus times per game.

I honestly can't find his yards vs expected for those games, but it doesn't matter one way or the other because the sample would be insignificant.

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I have always liked Conner.  The hope is Harris will be more durable.  Missing an entire game is only one way to measure it.

If Conner was gimpy for the entire second half of the season, started the game, got a few carries, then checked out, rinse and repeat, the missing only 3 games thing is pretty misleading.

Reminds me of Matt Breida.  Dude never missed all that many games, but he seemingly got hurt in every game he did play.

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17 minutes ago, SharkSwimmer said:

I have always liked Conner.  The hope is Harris will be more durable.  Missing an entire game is only one way to measure it.

If Conner was gimpy for the entire second half of the season, started the game, got a few carries, then checked out, rinse and repeat, the missing only 3 games thing is pretty misleading.

Reminds me of Matt Breida.  Dude never missed all that many games, but he seemingly got hurt in every game he did play.

That's simply not true. He was not banged up,  nor did he come out of any of those games in the second half (save for the one minor injury where he missed one game). They simply had no interest in running the ball. And honestly, when they did run, it was just the occasional dive up the middle followed by 15 consecutive passes.

Am I the only one who watched the Steelers in the second half last year when Tomlin lost his mind. I've never seen anything like it. Not close. 

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6 hours ago, ajs723 said:

That's simply not true. He was not banged up,  nor did he come out of any of those games in the second half (save for the one minor injury where he missed one game). They simply had no interest in running the ball. And honestly, when they did run, it was just the occasional dive up the middle followed by 15 consecutive passes.

Am I the only one who watched the Steelers in the second half last year when Tomlin lost his mind. I've never seen anything like it. Not close. 

Again, I don't understand the white knighting for a dude made of glass that sure had a few good games and a few good stretches but overall was nothing but ho hum. Great kid, great story, but I'm glad he's gone 

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Maybe the Steelers abandoned the run last year because they did not have any running backs who could execute the plays the way they wanted done?  They did reach 11-0.

If that's the case, and they decided to invest heavily in Harris, I think that is a very good sign for how they plan to use him.  Big Ben is only 38 or 39, but injuries and age have sapped his once-legendary toughness and ability to extend plays.  Pittsburgh needs balance in 2021.

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2 hours ago, Savatage79 said:

Again, I don't understand the white knighting for a dude made of glass that sure had a few good games and a few good stretches but overall was nothing but ho hum. Great kid, great story, but I'm glad he's gone 

I'm not ignoring that Conner has a detailed injury history. But, he was healthy last year. Proving once again, that even the most "injury prone" players are capable of staying on the field. 

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31 minutes ago, SharkSwimmer said:

Maybe the Steelers abandoned the run last year because they did not have any running backs who could execute the plays the way they wanted done?  They did reach 11-0.

If that's the case, and they decided to invest heavily in Harris, I think that is a very good sign for how they plan to use him.  Big Ben is only 38 or 39, but injuries and age have sapped his once-legendary toughness and ability to extend plays.  Pittsburgh needs balance in 2021.

Maybe. They got those first 8 wins with a running game though. Wins 9 and 10 came against the Bengals and Jags. After that, they went 2-4. The team had far more success when they did run the ball, which I guess could be a good sign for Harris, if Tomlin has a brain.

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2 minutes ago, ajs723 said:

"I'm not ignoring that Conner has a detailed injury history. But, he was healthy last year. Proving once again, that even the most "injury prone" players are capable of staying on the field." 

Evidence that would seem to support your contention is the fact that while Ben threw the ball 68 times vs Cleveland in their playoff game, early on, Conner had six touches within the first six minutes of the game. Or, 6 of their first 11 offensive plays went to him! However, they fell behind 28-0 very quickly, which of course altered their game plan. He still ended up with 16 touches, but had the game at least been competitive, he may have been in line for well over 20. 

There's also the fact that the departing left tackle said that they weren't even practicing running plays in the latter part of the season. I agree there were other factors, but Conner's suspect availability was one of them. 

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The whole thing is just why waste time caring about the past,  we all highly value the next man up for steelers.  Everyone went berserk to get a bum like snell or Samuel's when conner went down, why? Volume. Harris is leagues ahead of these guys... people should be chomping at the bit as next man up,  a true focal point of this offense. 

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2 hours ago, Savatage79 said:

The whole thing is just why waste time caring about the past,  we all highly value the next man up for steelers.  Everyone went berserk to get a bum like snell or Samuel's when conner went down, why? Volume. Harris is leagues ahead of these guys... people should be chomping at the bit as next man up,  a true focal point of this offense. 

Couldn’t agree more! 
 

Just curious where are you drafting him this year? I think he should be in the cam Akers territory. 

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8 minutes ago, Stonej14 said:

Couldn’t agree more! 
 

Just curious where are you drafting him this year? I think he should be in the cam Akers territory. 

Yea I think thats reasonable.  I haven't really locked my brain yet into drafts quite yet although I will soon.  I'm gonna be curious where others heads are on it if I can, he might slip a little still given its his rookie year but yea I just haven't sat down quite yet and really figured where I'd he comfy but the akers territory give or take a few spots is a good starting place 

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3 hours ago, markrc99 said:

Evidence that would seem to support your contention is the fact that while Ben threw the ball 68 times vs Cleveland in their playoff game, early on, Conner had six touches within the first six minutes of the game. Or, 6 of their first 11 offensive plays went to him! However, they fell behind 28-0 very quickly, which of course altered their game plan. He still ended up with 16 touches, but had the game at least been competitive, he may have been in line for well over 20. 

There's also the fact that the departing left tackle said that they weren't even practicing running plays in the latter part of the season. I agree there were other factors, but Conner's suspect availability was one of them. 

Sure. They absolutely had to throw the ball in that game. They fell way behind and it made sense. Forget about that.

There are examples just like this from every game in the second half, but this is my favorite. This sequence is from week 9 when they blew out Cincy. This series of play calls takes place between late third into the 4th quarter of a blowout win by the Steelers.

Pass

End around flip to Claypool

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

11 yard run by Conner

Pass

Pass

1 yard Conner run

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

 

Stop and think about that. The Steelers were up 3 scores at that point and it was the 4th quarter. They had Ben throw the ball 20 times to two Conner totes. Think about how utterly off the deep end insane that is.

You could argue that, well, maybe Conner was banged up and they were resting him (zero evidence of that, for the record), but then why not give the ball to Snell. 

You don't go with a 10-1 pass to run ratio late in a blowout win unless your coach has an pathological aversion to running the ball. Maybe Tomlin has learned his lesson, but it happened once, so it could happen again. 

Edited by ajs723
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32 minutes ago, ajs723 said:

Sure. They absolutely had to throw the ball in that game. They fell way behind and it made sense. Forget about that.

There are examples just like this from every game in the second half, but this is my favorite. This sequence is from week 9 when they blew out Cincy. This series of play calls takes place between late third into the 4th quarter of a blowout win by the Steelers.

Pass

End around flip to Claypool

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

11 yard run by Conner

Pass

Pass

1 yard Conner run

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

Pass

 

Stop and think about that. The Steelers were up 3 scores at that point and it was the 4th quarter. They had Ben throw the ball 20 times to two Conner totes. Think about how utterly off the deep end insane that is.

You could argue that, well, maybe Conner was banged up and they were resting him (zero evidence of that, for the record), but then why not give the ball to Snell. 

You don't go with a 10-1 pass to run ratio late in a blowout win unless your coach has an pathological aversion to running the ball. Maybe Tomlin has learned his lesson, but it happened once, so it could happen again. 


they fired the OC and hired Matt Canada

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1 hour ago, DerrickHenrysCleats said:


they fired the OC and hired Matt Canada

*Promoted

Canada was the QBs coach last year. Whether this signals any actual change in offensive philosophy remains to be seen.

Edit - I'm guessing it won't.

 

Matt Canada made one thing clear Tuesday in discussing changes he is bringing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first year as offensive coordinator:

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t bend to his system. The system will bend to Roethlisberger’s comfort level.

“We’re going to do what Ben wants to do,” Canada said, “and how Ben wants to do it.”

Edited by ajs723
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Big Ben has had a long career winning while co-existing with good to great running backs.  If Harris comes in and works hard, he is going to put up numbers.

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21 hours ago, ajs723 said:

*Promoted

Canada was the QBs coach last year. Whether this signals any actual change in offensive philosophy remains to be seen.

Edit - I'm guessing it won't.

 

Matt Canada made one thing clear Tuesday in discussing changes he is bringing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first year as offensive coordinator:

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t bend to his system. The system will bend to Roethlisberger’s comfort level.

“We’re going to do what Ben wants to do,” Canada said, “and how Ben wants to do it.”

Pretty much this. Ben has been the one calling plays for a few years now. The OC sends in suggestions. That said the Steelers had 373 rushing attempts as a team last year so there is still opportunities for Harris to be productive. Even at 15-16 carries a game I think Harris provides enough value to be a high end RB2 with RB1 potential as he’s likely the first and second option at the goal line. Before any snaps are taken I think he’s appropriately ranked right now in PPR around the 15 range. 

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On 6/15/2021 at 6:02 AM, Savatage79 said:

Again, I don't understand the white knighting for a dude made of glass that sure had a few good games and a few good stretches but overall was nothing but ho hum. Great kid, great story, but I'm glad he's gone 

You hate cancer survivors.   Got it.

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Steelers run percentage by year:

2020: 34%

2019: 42%

2018: 32%

2017: 40%

2016: 41%

2015: 38%

2014: 39%

There's this misconception that Tomlin is a run heavy coach. He isn't and has never been. They're never in the top 10 in run percentage and in fact spend most years around the bottom 10 even with Bell. One reason Bell got so much carries is because he was the only guy getting touches but also because their offense was so good and ran a ton of plays. 

Their offense is no longer that good which means there is likely not going to be that much touches. I've stated before I'm not that low on Harris but I also feel like a lot of people are living in the past about this team. Conner didn't just get less touches because he isn't good (he wasn't bad as mentioned). He didn't get touches because Tomlin throws a lot and when you aren't getting as much plays in you aren't going to run as much. 

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Steelers offense I don't think Is as bad off tho as one might believe,  they averaged 26 pts , compared to GB which averaged 31 points . They ranked 12th in NFL in points total...again not amazing but not horrible, it means that there's still a ton of chances for a guy like Harris to get plenty of work.  They scored 416 points last year with a piss poor run game. 

The bottom line is I believe they will get back to a  better balance of carries with buying high into Harris. I just dont see how that can be denied. He's going to play a major role and that's exactly what you want in fantasy 

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14 minutes ago, Savatage79 said:

Steelers offense I don't think Is as bad off tho as one might believe,  they averaged 26 pts , compared to GB which averaged 31 points . They ranked 12th in NFL in points total...again not amazing but not horrible, it means that there's still a ton of chances for a guy like Harris to get plenty of work.  They scored 416 points last year with a piss poor run game. 

The bottom line is I believe they will get back to a  better balance of carries with buying high into Harris. I just dont see how that can be denied. He's going to play a major role and that's exactly what you want in fantasy 

 

I agree with your sentiments. The Steelers bad offense is only remembered because it happened late in the season. The offense was fine for 11 weeks not excellent but fine. Getting a stud RB won’t make it worse.

However their 26 ppg were closer to NEs 20.4 than it was Greenbays 31.8.
 

 

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On 6/15/2021 at 3:40 PM, ajs723 said:

Canada was the QBs coach last year. Whether this signals any actual change in offensive philosophy remains to be seen. ...

"Matt Canada made one thing clear Tuesday in discussing changes he is bringing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in his first year as offensive coordinator: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won’t bend to his system. The system will bend to Roethlisberger’s comfort level. “We’re going to do what Ben wants to do,” Canada said, “and how Ben wants to do it.”"

Reading several articles along with your comment(s), that of 'Hawk & others, I think the Steelers are one of the more QB-centric teams. Problem is, their franchise player is 39 & can't possibly be the same player. I don't agree with the pass-happy part being on Mike Tomlin, I think he has more autonomy than say, Sean McDermott, but less than Ron Rivera or Dan Campbell.

I don't know when the QB-centric mentality started, but I have a sense of when it went off the rail,... Dan Marino. He was the first QB I ever saw wave off base personnel and the punt unit. The first to noticeably be frustrated with the play call, a run of course. The first to instruct the HOF coach to let the other team score so that he'd have more time to engineer the winning drive, which he did! :) 

I think owners would give anything to go back. The latest "takeover" appears to be Allen in Buffalo, McDermott the bobbin' headin' clone of a HC.  

Quote

 

"He also was not a fan of using pre-snap motion – a staple of Canada’s system and something that the team used early last season. ... By using the pistol formation, they can run more traditional run plays and run play action off of them without needing Ben to be under center as much. That compromise should ... help them see eye-to-eye more this season." https://stillcurtain.com/2021/05/31/steelers-ben-roethlisberger-season-left/

"The reason for this [early] success was evident in any given game you put on. ... a healthy dose of play-action passes, pre-snap motion, and plays under center that helped Pittsburgh to a balanced offense early on. Unfortunately, Ben Roethlisberger was not a big fan of this, and he voiced it to the media last year. In a nutshell, Ben proclaimed that he wasn’t a big fan of play-action, pre-snap motion, or anything that required him to turn his back to the defense. He also noted that he was most comfortable running plays out of shotgun." https://stillcurtain.com/2021/06/09/steelers-oc-matt-canada-will-keep-familiarity-ben-roethlisberger-2021/

 

Oh, alpha QBs want to win, as much as anyone. They, they just have to be the reason is all.... If the material above is factual, the situation is NG & the root of the problem lies with that soggy sausage parading around like he's the guy to decide. At his current price I'm off Harris in redraft, but in longer formats, it could still work & if not, hopefully they part with Ben.   

Edited by markrc99
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