2. Najee Harris, Running Back
The Steelers have a two-way threat in Najee Harris, who currently has 1,173 yards from scrimmage (954 yards rushing, 219 receiving yards). His yards per carry average is nothing to write home about at 3.83 yards per carry, but he’s a workhorse, with an average of 18.1 touches per game. That includes 15.6 rushes per contest and 2.5 catches per game. You can pretty much count on him getting the ball in short-yardage situations.
What are the Browns going to do about it? With weakness at the defensive tackle position versus the run, and an injury-depleted linebacker corps, Cleveland’s going to be susceptible to runs up the middle and screen passes, which is what Harris does best. That points to a potentially big game for the big back from Alabama.
Harris would like to have his second consecutive 1,000-yard season. He needs 46 yards in order to accomplish that major milestone — which is sure to happen against the Browns’ all-too-accommodating run defense.
Still, his campaign hasn’t been quite as impressive as his rookie season, a year in which he made the Pro Bowl. That year, he had 307 rushes and 94 targets as a receiver, which is a crazy total.
The Steelers don’t have huge names on offense these days. However, keep an eye on tight end Pat Freiermuth, who has 732 receiving yards, as well as wideout Diontae Johnson (844 yards), who is their go-to wide receiver.
Rookie George Pickens (729 yards), the former Georgia Bulldog, is starting to click with fellow rookie Kenny Pickett (be glad that you are not a Pittsburgh play-by-play announcer, lest you might have to say something like, “Pittsburgh’s Pickett, the former Pitt Panther, pitches the pigskin to Pickens).
Anyway, the Steelers try not to throw the ball too often or too long with the rookie running things. One flaw with the plan is that their kicker, Chris Boswell, has been having an off-year and may not be completely right physically. Thus, they may actually have to put the pigskin in the end zone in order to win.
Nevertheless, the Browns put together a strong effort against the Washington Commanders, who also figured to be a run-first offense. Perhaps they can continue that trend against the Steelers and slow Harris down and prevent them from scoring.