Steelers surprisingly decline 5th-year option on RB Najee Harris

Harris is set to be a free agent after the 2024-25 season

The Pittsburgh Steelers are declining the fifth-year option on running back Najee Harris. That will make him a free agent after the 2024-25 season.

Last season, Harris led the Steelers with 1,035 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He's run for over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons, playing in all 51 regular-season games.

With new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith installing his system, Pittsburgh wants to see how Harris and the other running backs on the roster produce, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac.

The Steelers’ running game could also improve with an upgraded offensive line. The team selected Washington tackle Troy Fautanu with its 2024 first-round pick, and also selected center Zach Frazier and guard Mason McCormick in the draft. They join tackle Broderick Jones, a 2023 first-rounder, and guards Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo, who signed as free agents last offseason on Pittsburgh's revamped unit.

Harris was Pittsburgh's 2021 first-round selection (No. 24 overall) out of Alabama. In three seasons, he's rushed for 3,269 yards and 22 touchdowns. He's the first Steelers running back to begin his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, as well as the only running back in the NFL to run for 1,000 yards during the past three years.

The Steelers slightly reduced Harris' workload last season, giving more carries to Jaylen Warren. Warren is also a better pass-catching threat out of the backfield, catching 61 passes for 370 yards, putting him on the field more often.

By declining the fifth-year option, Pittsburgh will not have to pay Harris a guaranteed $6.8 million for the 2025 season. However, the team could still sign him to an extension or use the franchise tag if he has another strong season. Harris will be 27 years old and arguably still in the prime of his career, though he'll have four seasons and more than 1,000 carries logged as a pro.