During Tuesday’s minicamp interview sessions, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris certainly gave the impression that he thought the media was overreacting to his alleged weight gain.
I’d argue the only one who may have overreacted was Harris.
Over the course of last month’s OTA practices, just about every Pittsburgh media member who was on hand made some sort of comment — publicly or off the record — about how rocked Harris looked as he approached his second NFL season.
To the extent that I witnessed, everyone meant it in a positive fashion. His quads look like tree trunks. His calves look like he has been in the gym since the plane landed from Kansas City at the end of last year’s playoff game. In general, he appears sculpted and ready to attack his second NFL campaign.
When that conversation hit social media, in a not-safe-for-work tweet, Harris seemed to interpret it differently.
But it was Harris himself who told reporters he was weighing in at 244 pounds. And his Steelers bio said he played at 232 last year.
Yet Harris still aired his grievances with the local media on Tuesday.
“I haven’t weighed 232 since … Notre Dame (his second to last game at Alabama)… I was 242 last year. Now I’m 244. But — if you guys didn’t know — you always are heavier in this than when you play in the season. … I’m gonna play at 242,” Harris insisted.
Jerome Bettis often played at 250-255 pounds — at least. Harris didn’t like those comparisons either.
“Tell Jerome, that’s the homie, but y’all are making it seem like I’m fat as (heck),” Harris added. “It’s whatever, though. Y’all get under my skin, I ain’t gonna lie. And that’s why I like y’all. Not too many people can get under my skin, but y’all tend to do that.”
As you can see in that link, Harris did all of that scolding with a smile and a jovial tone. But it was clear he was a bit put off by the whole conversation.
That said, I didn’t hear (or see) anyone in the local media refer to Harris as “fat.” Nor did I catch anyone making comparisons to Bettis’ physique. Quite the opposite.
So if Harris caught wind of anything to that effect that ticked him off, it didn’t come from those he was admonishing yesterday.
It makes me wonder if Harris saw something like this tweet from Warren Sharp — who is a national NFL analyst focusing on “analytics & visualized data” for SharpFootballStats.com and NBC Sports.
“Last year Najee Harris averaged 0.93 yards before contact per rush. That was the lowest in the NFL,” Sharp wrote. “And ranked 43 out of 43 RBs over the last 2 years (with a minimum of 200 attempts). I’m not sure adding weight will help him to the hole any faster.”
I’d argue the vast majority of that negative output probably was the result of who was blocking for Harris and not what he weighed. But whatever the theory for the analysis, that’s a heckuva long way from calling Harris “fat.”
Or maybe it was this CBSPORTS.com story that referenced Bettis was 243 when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in 1996.
Regardless, those stories weren’t generated by anyone who saw him in practice and OTAs, and those that did universally advanced the narrative as a compliment of Harris’ offseason conditioning and not a suggestion that he slacked on it.
But, sorry to get under your skin, Najee. Now just go out and have a career like Bettis’ and it won’t matter at all anyway.
Joe Rutter and Tim Benz spoke on 105.9 The X after the first day of Steelers minicamp. They talk about the quarterback situation, Diontae Johnson’s contract, depth concerns and Najee Harris’ weight.
Listen: Tim Benz and Joe Rutter talk Steelers minicamp
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.
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