In today's NFL, workhorse running backs are an endangered species.
Committees are a constant and the running back market of 2023 is further evidence of that.
That's not the case in Pittsburgh, though.
Since his 2021 rookie season, Steelers running back Najee Harris leads the NFL with 579 carries and 694 touches, per NFL Research. Will Harris continue to be a workhorse for Pittsburgh in 2023?
The numbers -- and offensive coordinator Matt Canada's propensity to feed Harris the ball -- suggest he will.
Over the course of two seasons in the NFL and with the Steelers, Harris has registered 40.8% of Pittsburgh's touches -- the highest percentage in the league, just ahead of the Raiders' Josh Jacobs (40.7%).
Jacobs was the NFL rushing champion in 2022 with 1,653 yards, while the Titans' Derrick Henry's 349 rushing attempts led the league. Still, the fresh legs of Harris have been fed more than anyone else over the past two years en route to rushing to consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns.
Harris' high usage has put him atop the record books for one of the most storied franchises in NFL chronicle. With 2,234 yards, Harris has the most rushing yards in a player's first two seasons in Pittsburgh history, just ahead of Le'Veon Bell (2,238 yards) and the late Hall of Famer Franco Harris (1,753).
However, it's not all been rainbows and history books for Harris. He's averaging just 3.9 yards per carry for his young career, which is the fewest in the NFL among 36 players with 250 or more carries. It's not for a lack of effort or skill though, considering Harris has forced 160 missed tackles since 2021 -- second most in the league, per PFF.
Perhaps Harris' workload will lighten in 2023 with quarterback Kenny Pickett finding his footing, the ascension of wide receiver George Pickens, the addition of wideout Allen Robinson and the continued impressive play of Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth.
Perhaps not, though. Canada is still helming the Pittsburgh O. Over the last two years, the Steelers offense has sputtered to the tune of a 31st-ranked 4.9 yards per play. With a lack of big plays for Pittsburgh, there are quite simply more plays and more touches for Harris and his teammates. Hence, as Harris has led the league in carries and touches over the past two years, Freiermuth still quietly became the first tight end since 1990 to tally 60 receptions in each of his first two seasons.
Harris' workload has been eye-opening so far, but it's arguable if it's brought out the best in the first-rounder.
Thusly, perhaps there are two crucial questions relating to Harris in 2023.
Will he maintain his bell cow role in the Steelers offense, and should he?