Najee Harris may be from California, and played college football at Alabama. But with Pittsburgh he's found a professional home, and not just because the Steelers took him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Harris has already learned that Steelers fans are a little bit different. Pittsburgh's residents are widely known for being friendly and outgoing. But everything is black and yellow.
Even the Pirates and Penguins wear the colors, which match the city flag and seal (and follow the family coat of arms of William Pitt), but it's clear which team leads the way.
“The fanbase here is unmatched,” Harris said. “I came from Alabama and we had a big fanbase. But here in Pittsburgh, they’re a little bit crazier than 'Bama ones.”
He wasn't knocking the Crimson Tide. Just everything's a little different, and a little bigger in the NFL.
Steelers fans love their players almost unconditionally to begin with, but there's another level reserved for the hard-working ones.
It's a blue-collar city, after all.
Consequently, the fans are already raving about Harris, who hasn't taken a handoff in even a preseason game, yet. That'll change Thursday when the Steelers face the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game (7 p.m., Fox). The first game of the exhibition schedule not only serves as the kickoff for the NFL in general, but the sport as a whole.
Barring anything extreme, and not including spring and foreign leagues, some sort of football will be played every weekend from now until February.
Because "He's a rookie," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this week that Harris could play in all four Pittsburgh preseason games as he prepares for the regular season.
The Steelers could count on him a lot after finishing dead last in rushing, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Harris is playing behind a new-look offensive line, which no one knows how good it'll be, and with an aging quarterback near the end of his career.
That'll be very different from Alabama, where Nick Saban was careful not to overwork him even though Harris rushed for 1,466 yards and 26 touchdowns while become the program's all-time leading rusher in 2020, and also made 43 receptions for 425 yards.
So the running back knows he has to be ready for everything, and is preparing as such.
For example, before each training camp practice, Harris and Tomlin talk about the plan for the day. The running back has asked to face linebackers of all sizes, including the biggest ones on the roster, in hitting drills to be ready both mentally and physically.
“[Tomlin] understands because he likes to compete,” Harris said. “Every now and then he might say, ‘Oh, nah, nah, nah.’ But for the most part, he’s like yeah, for sure, you can do whatever you want.”
See? Perfect fit.
The Extra Point is a regular feature on BamaCentral, and often includes video and other elements from our FanNation partners. Other recent segments include:
Najee Harris may be from California, and played college football at Alabama. But with Pittsburgh he's found a professional home, and not just because the Steelers took him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Subscribe for full article
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