Latest Najee Harris report is bad news for Steelers, Jaylen Warren

Recent reporting will tell us that the Pittsburgh Steelers are committed to sticking with running back Najee Harris, which is bad news for the franchise and backfield mate Jaylen Warren.
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills
AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

When the Pittsburgh Steelers declined the fifth-year option of 2021 first-round pick and running back Najee Harris, many thought the franchise was leaving the door open for Jaylen Warren to take over the backfield in 2024. However, it appears to be quite the opposite based on recent buzz.

Shortly after the Steelers opted out of exercising Harris' fifth-year option, a rumor surfaced that the Pittsburgh running back was considered a trade target for the Dallas Cowboys, and that led to us crafting a hypothetical trade scenario involving the two teams. But it was all for not considering the intel from Jane Slater of NFL Network, who reported on Monday evening that the current discourse had no backing.

The idea of any deal materializing is far-fetched and unrealistic from what we have heard from Slater. So, we can seemingly pump the brakes on Harris landing in Dallas. Instead, we can turn our attention to ESPN's Brooke Pryor sharing that the Steelers have not ruled out the possibility of re-signing their workhorse running back after the upcoming season, which spells trouble for Warren and Pittsburgh's rushing attack.

Latest Najee Harris report is bad news for Steelers, Jaylen Warren

"With the new offense being installed, the feeling is the organization wants to see how Harris and the other running backs function in Arthur Smith's offense before making a long-term commitment to him," Pryor said.

What more must the Steelers see from Harris to realize he is not the long-term answer to their backfield? Moreover, what have they not seen from Warren that makes them hesitant to give him a full workload?

Despite the gaudy counting stats, Harris has ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in yards per carry among players with at least 200 rushing attempts in his first three seasons as a pro. Meanwhile, Warren has been one of the most hyper-efficient runners in the league, but is seeing his superior talent get wasted because of the difference in draft pedigree between the two (the former was a first-round pick while the latter was undrafted).

Warren amassed 1,154 scrimmage yards on 210 touches in 2023, showcasing his dual-threat ability out of the backfield. Harris compiled 51 more yards (1,205) on 74 more opportunities. The numbers speak for themselves, even though the Steelers apparently see things differently based on their usage. 

Continuing to roll with Harris over Warren is coaching and managerial malpractice, especially considering the former is entering the final year of his team-friendly rookie contract ($985,000 base salary for 2024). Considering extending the former to do so for years to come is a borderline crime.

One way or another, the Steelers will pay (literally) for sticking with Harris as the top backfield option over Warren.