PFF Predicts Steelers Pick Up Najee Harris’ 5th Year Option, Decline Justin Fields’ Option

Free agency has begun to wrap up and as we move into the next stages of the offseason, a few decisions loom for the Steelers.

May 2nd is the deadline to make decisions on 5th-year options for players from the 2021 draft. With the addition of Justin Fields via trade from the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh now has to make the decision on Fields as well as Najee Harris.

Steelers RB Najee Harris says team is still looking at the playoffs

First, Fields who was the 11th pick in that draft. His 5th-year option would cost the team just over 25.6 million dollars if picked up, quite a big number. Brad Spielberger from Pro Football Focus predicted if every option would be picked up. He had the Steelers not exercising Fields’ 5th-year.

“Fields can potentially supplant Russell Wilson as the starter in 2024, after which Pittsburgh may be able to sign him to something of a bridge-type deal, franchise-tag him or extend him to a major contract.” Spielberger wrote. “That outcome is more expensive than the option — potentially exponentially so — but it’s worth avoiding the downside risk of exercising the option and things not panning out quite as well.”

The Steelers have no quarterbacks signed to their roster beyond next year. There’s certainly a chance that Fields impresses enough that the team is interested in keeping him around as a potential starter in 2025.

But to make that call now, with the price tag being as high as it is, would be irresponsible. Worst-case, as Spielberger said, if Fields ends up dominating next year, they can give him the franchise tag.

The more interesting option is that of Najee Harris, who would be due $6.79 million if they were to pick up his 5th year. Spielberger does have them exercising this one.

“Harris is a solid all-around player who can block for the team’s new quarterback duo, catch the ball out of the backfield with confident hands and run very hard between the tackles.” Spielberger noted. “How he fits with new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith remains to be seen, and he should cede more and more snaps to Jaylen Warren going forward, but not so much so to make declining the fifth-year option the move here for Pittsburgh.”

If you had asked most fans partway through last season, there likely wouldn’t have been a lot of clamoring for Harris’ option to be picked up. Jaylen Warren was stealing more and more of his slaps and was looking much more explosive than Harris.

But over the back half of the season, Harris proved why the Steelers spent a first-round draft pick on him, running for over 300 yards and four touchdowns in the team’s final three games, all Steeler wins.

It’s likely Pittsburgh at least picks up his option here, as it’s a fairly cheap price tag, especially when compared to all of the big contracts running backs got in free agency this season. He should have at least two more years of being a productive NFL running back.

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