NFL Draft, Pittsburgh Steelers

Kevin Colbert explains why he wasn’t afraid to take Najee Harris in the first round

The Pittsburgh Steeler selection of Najee Harris might have ruffled some feathers, but at least GM Kevin Colbert is defending the pick.

They say selecting a running back in the first round is a bad idea. What happens if that running back is a generational talent like Najee Harris?

It was almost a given that the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to select the former Alabama running back. The team has been missing that element of offense since the departure of Le’Veon Bell in 2018. James Conner had a good season but he never looked up to the hype following his leading role.

People weren’t please with the Harris pick by Steelers GM Kevin Colbert. That doesn’t mean the long-time executive isn’t standing by the selection.

“We don’t buy into that belief at all,” Colbert told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. “If a player we think is a very good player at the collegiate level, and we think he can be a very good player at the NFL level, regardless of the position, we’ll take him in that first round if he’s available.”

Is Harris the right guy for Pittsburgh?

If anyone knows what a running back of top-tier talent is worth, Colbert is a front runner. During his time with the Detroit Lions, he was influential on the selection of Barry Sanders. All the Oklahoma State alum did was spearheaded six Detroit playoff appearances and 10 1,000-plus seasons rushing.

Remember Jerome Bettis? Although Colbert didn’t draft him, he did watch him thrive as one of the biggest stars in the Steel City. Bettis believes Harris can be a top talent for the Steelers offense.

“He’s the modern NFL power back,” Bettis said of Harris, via KDKA. “He has the speed, he’s got the power, but he also has the hands to get out of the back field and make plays outside of that offensive line.”

Harris’ number defied the odds for Alabama during the 2020 season. He actually posted better statistics than former Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry in his final season with the Crimson Tide.

The Steelers haven’t ranked above 25th in rushing since 2018.

Of course, running backs are always a risk to take early in the NFL draft. With Ben Roethlisberger is declining play, adding a name like Harris actually is a benefit to the future of the organization in the short and long-term play.

The Steelers are hopeful they can stay a contender for at least 2021. With Harris, there is a shot they will.

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