Steelers’ Najee Harris starting to look like Trent Richardson

Najee Harris or Trent Richardson? You be the judge.

Najee Harris or Trent Richardson? You be the choose.
Picture: Getty Pictures

Most individuals might’ve predicted Najee Harris’ sophomore hunch. One have a look at the Steelers’ payroll, offensive line depth, or quarterback state of affairs ought to’ve been sufficient for anybody to foresee backfield struggles for the 2021 first-round select of Alabama. Nonetheless, a number of believed his characteristic function and pass-catching skill — primarily, his sheer quantity of labor — would make up for any deficiency. In any case, he’s immensely gifted.

Eight weeks into the season and now, that final assertion is seeming much less and fewer true. Harris is at the moment averaging 3.3 yards per carry, 45.1 yards per sport, three receptions per sport, and 4.7 yards per reception. All of these figures are down from final yr. He’s not reaching the top zone as usually. He’s receiving far fewer targets, and even when he does get alternatives, he doesn’t move the attention take a look at. Steelers followers have shaken their heads and fists too many occasions watching Harris run East to West as a substitute of North to South. He hasn’t proven endurance working up the center. He hasn’t proven sensible play. He’s simply been dangerous.

That stated, all of those struggles are simply that, struggles — meant to be overcome. Sophomore slumps are well-documented, and contemplating Harris spent the primary half of this season coping with a nagging ankle injury, there’s cause to be optimistic for a late-year push or third-year resurgence. Extra probably although, is that Harris is not going to get better from these struggles.

We’ve truly seen this profession arc earlier than.

Sure, that could be a graph that precisely illustrates the effectiveness of Najee Harris in comparison with Trent Richardson, one other Bama again, by every of their first 400 speeding makes an attempt.

Each gamers have been drafted within the first spherical of their respective drafts. Each gamers got greater than 250 speeding makes an attempt of their first season. Each gamers averaged underneath 4 yards per carry regardless of the heavy workloads. Each gamers confirmed nice promise, solely to vanish shortly. Most horrifying for Harris followers although is that we’re at the moment seeing the identical flaws in his sport that finally destroyed Richardson’s profession.

Richardson was 228 kilos throughout his profession, in keeping with Professional-Soccer-Reference. Harris is 4 inches taller than Richardson was, however 4 kilos heavier. Regardless, the average weight for an NFL running back is about 215 kilos. Each Harris and Richardson are massive males for his or her positions, making them excellent candidates for up-the-middle, North-South working. Dive straight into the tooth of the protection, work effectively in short-yardage conditions, and don’t attempt to velocity round edges or shake defenders out of their boots. Neither performed like that although.

Performs just like the one above actually don’t assist Harris’ case. On third down, the primary down marker was only a few yards downfield, however as a substitute of transferring towards the first-down line, Harris determined to bop and attempt to get across the defender and switch the play right into a probably greater achieve. That exhibits poor imaginative and prescient, poor decision-making, poor area consciousness, and poor agility — the defender didn’t fall for his transfer in any respect, and it slowed him down so {that a} second defender was capable of come up and assist make the cease — all the identical flaws that plagued Richardson’s sport.

I’ll say, Harris hits holes within the offensive line extra constantly than Richardson, who cherished to run into the backs of his linemen, did. Harris doesn’t try this fairly as usually. Harris additionally performs behind a worse offensive line. The 2013 Cleveland Browns’ O-line consisted of two 2013 Professional Bowlers (together with All-Professional left deal with Joe Thomas) and a future All-Professional in proper deal with Mitchell Schwartz. That line ranked 18th in adjusted line yards and ninth in energy success charge. These aren’t elite metrics, however they’re indicative of stable line play. Due to Richardson’s ineffectiveness, that line ranked close to the underside of the league in second-level yards and open area yards. These stats do mirror considerably poorly on the O-line however are extra indicative of ineffective working after holes are created by the large males up entrance. Cleveland ranked twenty eighth in second-level yards per try, and thirty first in open-field yards.

This season, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank twenty third in adjusted line yards and eleventh in energy success charge. Each numbers are beneath the 2013 Browns O-line (18th and ninth respectively), however they’re no less than considerably shut. Pittsburgh ranks twenty eighth in second-level yards and twenty eighth in open area yards. Sound acquainted?

It’s nonetheless early in Harris’ profession. He has time to show it round, however historical past tends to repeat itself. One other working again out of Alabama, on an NFC North workforce, struggling along with his id, is a narrative we’ve seen earlier than and it didn’t finish effectively. Because it’s going proper now, Harris is Richardson 2.0.

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