Tim Benz: If anyone made too much of Najee Harris’ weight this spring, it was Najee Harris



During Tuesday’s minicamp interview sessions, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris certainly gave the impression he thought the media was overreacting to his alleged weight gain.

I would argue that Harris was the only one who might have overreacted.

Over the course of last month’s OTA practices, nearly every Pittsburgh media member in attendance made some sort of comment — public or private — about how shattered Harris looked as he neared his second NFL season.

From what I’ve seen, everyone meant it positively. His quads look like tree trunks. His calves look like he’s been to the gym since the plane landed from Kansas City at the end of last year’s playoff game. Overall, he looks formed and ready to attack his second NFL campaign.

When this conversation hit social media, in a non-safe-for-work tweetHarris seemed to interpret it differently.

But it was Harris himself who told reporters He weighed 244 pounds. And his Steelers bio says he played at 232 last year.

Still, Harris voiced his grievances to local media on Tuesday.

“I haven’t weighed 232 since … Notre Dame (his second to last game in Alabama) … I was 242 last year. Now I’m 244. But — in case you don’t know — you’re always heavier at it than when you’re playing in season . … I’ll play at 242,” Harris insisted.

Jerome Bettis often played at 250-255 pounds – at least. Harris didn’t like these comparisons either.

“Tell Jerome this is the homie but you guys make it look like I’m fat like (damn)” Harris added. “But it’s whatever. You all get under my skin, I won’t lie. And that’s why I like you all. Not too many people can get under my skin, but you tend to.”

As you can see in this link, Harris delivered all of these scoldings with a smile and a jovial tone. But it was clear that he was a bit put off by the whole conversation.

However, I haven’t heard (or seen) anyone in the local media refer to Harris as “fat.” I also didn’t catch anyone making comparisons to Bettis’ physique. But on the contrary.

So if Harris caught wind of anything of the sort that upset him, it wasn’t from those he admonished yesterday.

I wonder if Harris saw anything like this tweet by Warren Sharp – a national NFL analyst focused on “analysis and visualized data” for SharpFootballStats.com and NBC Sports.

“Last year, Najee Harris averaged .93 yards from contact per rush. That was the lowest in the NFL,” Sharp wrote. “And ranked 43rd out of 43 RBs for the last 2 years (with at least 200 attempts). I’m not sure that extra weight will get him to the hole quicker.”

I would argue that the vast majority of this negative output was probably the result of who blocked for Harris, not what he weighed. But whatever the theory for the analysis, that’s a damn far cry from calling Harris “fat.”

Or maybe it was this CBSPORTS.com story that pointed out that Bettis was 243 years old when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in 1996.

Regardless, these stories were not generated by anyone who has seen him in practice and on OTAs, and those who have have generally taken the narration as a compliment of Harris’ off-season conditioning rather than a suggestion that he slack off, driven.

But sorry to get under your skin, najee. Now just go out there and have a career like Bettis’s, and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Joe Rutter and Tim Benz spoke on 105.9 The X after day one of the Steelers minicamp. They discuss the quarterback situation, Diontae Johnson’s contract, depth concerns and the weight of Najee Harris.

Listen: Tim Benz and Joe Rutter talk about the Steelers’ mini-camp

Tim Benz is a contributor to the Tribune Review. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless otherwise noted.

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