One could already say that Najee Harris has had his "welcome to the NFL" moment. That came when Harris, the former Alabama standout running back and Steelers' first-round pick, addressed the media following one of Pittsburgh's practices during this weekend's rookie minicamp.
Harris, who conducted the interview virtually, was surprised when a reporter recapped some of his highlights from practice.
"Oh you saw that?" Harris asked the reporter. "You guys were here? ... I thought ya'll were boosters."
While Harris is clearly learning some of the differences between college and the pros, he made a quick impression on Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is hoping that Harris can help revive a rushing attack that finished 32nd in the league in 2020.
"He is a sharp guy," Tomlin said, via ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "He is a football guy. You can tell he is passionate about football. He can articulate the game very well, so it's a lot to be excited about. It is more noticeable simply because there's not a lot of people to work with. He's getting an opportunity to work one on one with coach [Eddie] Faulkner at the running back position that provides plenty of opportunity for him to verbalize his knowledge and things of that nature."
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Harris, whose level of conditioning was also lauded by Tomlin, expects to play a handful of roles within the Steelers offense. And while his ability as a receiver was often overlooked in college, Harris showed off that aspect of his game by making an impressive one-handed catch during rookie minicamp.
"There are a lot of things that are actually similar," Harris said when asked to compare the Steelers offense to Alabama's, via Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider. "It's just different, different terminology, but the same meaning at the end of the day. They'll use different names than what we'll do, but the same stuff. One thing that's similar is probably how they're going to, I guess, line me up out wide, how I did in college, just utilize the running back in the passing game out wide, slot, out wide at the X position, and like just the schemes of the runs -- the inside zone, the outside zone, the power plays, the one-back power, the duo plays.
"A lot of what they're doing in their offense really resembles a lot of what we did, just like putting the players in the best position to make a play and really not doing too much thinking, just fast playing. The more you think, the slower you play, so it seems like they're trying to make everything as easy as possible so the players can play fast and be used to the best of their ability."
Harris' efforts over the weekend didn't just leave an impression on Tomlin and the coaching staff.
"He's a hell of a running back," said rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. "Going through walk-through today, he makes very good cuts and he's very smart with the football."
While it's only May, it's clear that Harris' time in Pittsburgh is off to a good start. And while Tomlin praised Harris' conditioning and overall readiness, Harris also had nothing but good things to say about his new coach.
"One thing I've taken away so far from him is he's really a people person," Harris said of Tomlin, who is preparing for his 15th season as Steelers coach. "He really takes time out of his day to get to know the players. He looks for the best, looks out and really cares for the players. You can tell by the way he comes into the locker room and chops it up with people, and he always has a ball of energy. A lot of people just feed off of that. He's somebody that it's easy to want to play for because he's such a likeable person."