Steelers turn to Alabama star to help running game
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers are turning to Alabama star Najee Harris to give their running game a jolt.
The Steelers selected Harris with the 24th overall pick Thursday night, confident he can help a rushing attack that finished dead last in the NFL in yards rushing in 2020.
Harris ran for 3,843 yards and 46 touchdowns in four seasons with the Crimson Tide, including 26 last fall while helping Alabama to the national title. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Harris is also a capable receiver out of the backfield, catching 43 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns as a senior.
Pittsburgh is looking to maximize whatever time left it has with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 39-year-old restructured his contract to ensure he would be back for an 18th season and Harris provided the opportunity to grab a player who could make an immediate impact.
The Steelers went 12-5 last year but wilted down the stretch, dropping five of their final six, including a blowout loss to Cleveland in the opening round of the playoffs. A running game that struggled to generate much of anything allowed defenses to tee off on Pittsburgh’s short passing game.
Harris’ arrival could go a long way to fixing the offense’s most pressing problem. He is the first running back taken by the Steelers in the first round since they selected Rashard Mendenhall in 2009 and just the fifth running back taken in the first round since 1970.
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Browns added another to piece to their revamped defense, selecting Northwestern cornerback Greg Newsome II with the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night.
With thousands of their fans on hand to hear Commissioner Roger Goodell make the announcement outside FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns picked the 6-foot, 190-pound Newsome, who will likely compete for a starting job.
Cleveland was in the market for another cornerback to pair with Denzel Ward, a first-round pick in 2018. The Browns don’t know if projected 2020 starter Greedy Williams will be ready this year after he missed last season with a shoulder injury suffered in training camp.
Newsome, who will turn 21 next month, had 71 tackles, 25 passes defensed and an interception in 21 games for the Wildcats. He earned All-Big Ten honors in 2020.
He was the fourth cornerback selected in the first round.
Cleveland’s draft day started early for general manager Andrew Berry as he and his wife, Brittan, welcomed their third child in the morning. Eden Ruth Berry weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces — and will be getting a lifetime contract.
The birth was perhaps another good omen for the Browns, who have been reborn.
After ending its nearly two-decades-old postseason drought last season and winning a playoff game for the first time since 1994, Cleveland picked 26th in the first round — the team’s lowest spot in any year in which it didn’t make a trade since returning as an expansion team in 1999.
Expectations have rarely been higher for the Browns or their fans, who have long considered the draft as their Super Bowl. Those days are over.
As he prepared for his second draft as Cleveland’s top football executive, Berry said last week he would approach this year’s selections with “the mindset of trying to really maximize the long-term impact of our roster.”
The focus, at least in the first two rounds, was expected to remain on Cleveland’s defense, which was revamped in free agency with the signing of edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney to pair with All-Pro Myles Garrett, safety John Johnson III and others.
There are other holes to fill and depth to be added for the Browns, who entered the draft with nine picks, including two in the third round.