Najee Harris occupying Troy Polamalu’s old locker;  Steelers RB accepts new leadership role

Najee Harris occupying Troy Polamalu’s old locker; Steelers RB accepts new leadership role

The winds of change have swept through the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room. With Ben Roethlisberger retiring this offseason, there are no members of Pittsburgh’s last Super Bowl team currently on the roster. Those players’ lockers are now being occupied by a new wave of Steelers who are trying to add to the franchise’s collection of championship teams.

The former locker of one of Roethlisberger’s most famous teammates, Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu, is currently being occupied by Najee Harris (h/t Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider), who is currently being groomed by Mike Tomlin and defensive captain Cam Heyward. as the new team leader.

“I am closing the transitional leadership relationship between Cam Heyward and Najee,” Tomlin said on The Pivot Podcast. “Najee is a leader. He was born a leader. He has good football morals. He sees the game as we see it. He wants to be a part of what is right, so he must cultivate himself. That must be trained… We are not going to give him ask him to lead without teaching him how to lead, what it looks like, what it implies, not only in our words but in our actions.

Tomlin’s praise quickly returned to Harris, who answered throught social media

“I have the utmost respect for this guy,” Harris wrote. “Everything he says is the truth. I continue to learn every day. I am more than happy to have these people on my side.”

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Tomlin shared an example of how Heyward emanated leadership through his actions. Last December, learning that Harris had no Christmas decorations set up inside his home, Tomlin enlisted Heyward to handle the matter.

“Cam Heyward had a Christmas tree delivered to his house that night,” Tomlin recalled. “We adorn ourselves and all that… That has nothing to do with football. We just want him to know that we need certain things from him in football, so we’ll help him with the other aspects.” out of his life because I can’t run the ball, and neither can Cam Heyward.”

Harris hopes to have more success this season after rewriting the Steelers’ rookie record books in 2021. Despite playing behind a rebuilt offensive line, Harris managed to rush for a Steelers rookie record of 1,200 yards. He also set the Steelers rookie record with 1,647 all-purpose yards. Because of his efforts, Harris earned Pro Bowl honors while helping the Steelers capture a playoff berth during Roethlisberger’s final season.

He may be a modern running back, but Harris plays an old-school system when it comes to running back. While many teams have opted for two-back systems, Tomlin remains a fan of the featured back. That’s one of the reasons the Steelers used a first-round pick to acquire Harris, who helped lead Alabama to a national title in his final season in Tuscaloosa.

Durability is critical for Harris, given how often the Steelers call his number. But despite last year’s heavy workload (Harris had 381 touches last season, 10 more than last year’s rushing champion Jonathan Taylor), Harris consistently dismissed questions about his physical well-being at the end of the 2021 season. He answered those questions by having two of his best performances at the end of the season; a 93-yard rushing performance against the Chiefs in Week 16 and a 188-yard performance in a Week 17 win over Cleveland.

Harris will be an integral part of Pittsburgh’s offense again in 2022, but his workload may be lighter this season with the offseason additions of rookie receivers George Pickens and Calvin Austin III. Harris will also have the help of what should be an improved offensive line after the Steelers drafted interior linemen James Daniels and Mason Cole in free agency.

“That guy is a bell cow,” Tomlin said of his 24-year-old running back. “He’s going to have to be a bell cow for us. If this train goes anywhere in 2022, he’s going to be a major component and he’s capable. I’m not even talking from a talent standpoint; we know I’m talking about he’s capable from a intangible point of view, bringing out the best in his teammates, taking on the responsibility that comes with leading. He’s just young. It’s been a fun project.”

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