Najee Harris is about to enter the third year of his rookie contract.  After this season the Steelers will have a decision on their hands on what to do contractually with their former first round pick.  Pittsburgh would like to avoid going into the final year of his contract unsigned.  They have the fifth year option as a way to keep Harris under contract for another season.  Beyond that, the Steelers and Najee Harris are about to enter into a long, and quite possibly ugly contract battle that may not end well for either side.

Even the fifth year option may not be too attractive for the Steelers.  As of right now Harris is eligible for the one time Pro-Bowl number which is roughly 6 million.  If he were to be selected to the Pro-Bowl again in 2023, that number would jump to over 10 million.  A ten million dollar cap hit is not exactly something Omar Khan would want from a running back.

That leaves the team with the daunting task of trying to get a long term deal done.  We have seen this offseason how difficult that can be.  Players like Josh Jacobs, and Saquon Barkley are threatening to hold out as the franchise tag deadline has passed.  Now I know what you’re thinking, those players have put up far better numbers than Najee Harris.  This is true, but the Steelers have spent all offseason setting this offense up for Harris to have a big season.  Improving the line, and selecting the best run-blocking tight end in the draft make this a very friendly offense for running backs.

With that in mind, is a very realistic scenario that Najee Harris could find himself in the Pro-Bowl in 2023.  That makes the starting point of negotiations at 10 million per season.  And don’t look for any home town discounts.  Harris has been very vocal about running back pay on social media.

This has all the makings of a Le’Veon Bell 2.0 situation unfolding either this offseason or the next.  Reviewing the Steelers options going forward with Le’veon Bell  It will be Omar Khan’s first real test as the Steelers general manager.  Will he hold firm like his predecessor Kevin Colbert?  Or will he somehow find a way to navigate a solution that satisfies both parties.  Najee Harris and his representation will surely not make it easy.

This stands to be the number one off the field story for this franchise for the next 18 months,  How it plays out will have a huge impact on both the player, and the team going forward,