There are no shortcuts in life. The Pittsburgh Steelers are finding this out first hand this season. Instead of rebuilding an offensive line that was in shambles, they instead chose the quick fix for their underperforming offense. Steelers offensive line could be a weakness in 2020 Using a first round pick on a running back, even one as good as Najee Harris, was a mistake by this front office. Kevin Colbert decided to draft skill positions early, then try to piece together an offensive line later in the draft. Building a team from the outside in rarely works, if ever.
No one will argue that Najee Harris isn’t a terrific talent. Harris is somehow having a remarkable season despite the woes on the offensive line. He is currently eighth in the league in rushing yards. Harris is also the team’s third leading receiver, representing a huge chunk of the offense’s total output. Dig deeper though, and you find that he is only managing a pedestrian 3.6 yards per carry. He has to work much harder, and carry the ball more often than most for the same amount of yardage. Because of all the carries and receptions, Harris is now the league leader in touches in the NFL with 237. None of those carries, or receptions are easy ones either. The Steelers rookie running back has taken more hits than most because of the porous line. There is a serious risk of injury now from over use at this point.
Unfortunately the Steelers don’t have much choice other than to continue to basically run Najee Harris into the ground. The pass blocking is so bad, this offense can not sustain an offense through the air. They also do not have another running back on the roster who can overcome the shortcoming’s of this line. Basically it has become Najee or bust for the Steelers offense for the remainder of the season.
It did not have to be this way. This team should have focused on the offensive line early in this draft, rather than running back. Center was the biggest hole in this roster with the retirement of Maurkice Pouncey. One can’t help but notice how well rookie center Creed Humphrey is performing in Kansas City. He has been consistently rated among the best lineman in football by PFF. Imagine Humphrey, Freiermuth, and say a tackle like Spencer Brown as the Steelers first three picks. Throw in a back like Elijah Mitchell (5th round), or Rhamondre Stevenson (round 4), and you are in business.
Obviously neither of those backs are as talented as Najee Harris. That’s the whole point though. If the Steelers line is solid, the need to draft a back in the first round is not necessary. You can find a back later in the draft with 75% of the talent, and still get similar production. All the while making other positions stronger.
The Steelers drafted Najee Harris out of desperation. Kevin Colbert didn’t believe they could fix the line all at once. The team decided instead on a quick fix of drafting an ultra-talented running back in hopes that he could hide the issues along the line, and a declining quarterback. Well it worked, sort of. They have been completely dependent on their running back to carry the offense all season. Right now the Harris is at a pace to have over 400 touches. This raises serious concern over injury, or just getting completely worn down as the season progresses. Time will tell if Najee Harris can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, or if he can maintain this brutal pace even if he stays healthy. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the entire season depends on it.