Cincinnati Bengals: 3 new players in AFC North to worry about in 2021

Leigh Oleszczak
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images)
Cincinnati Bengals (Photo by Bryan Woolston/Getty Images) /
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Cincinnati Bengals
Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) – Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Players to concern Cincinnati Bengals – No. 1: Najee Harris, RB (Steelers)

While the decision to take a running back in the first round was an odd one, the Steelers are getting a workhorse in Najee Harris and that’s probably why they felt comfortable taking him with the No. 24 selection. This is a guy who rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of the last two seasons, including rushing for 1,466 yards and a whopping 26 touchdowns in the shortened 2020 season.

Not only is Harris a threat on the ground but he tears it up as a receiver too, catching 43 passes for 426 yards and another four touchdowns on his resumé. No one knew how to stop Harris last year and the Bengals, who finished the 2020 season as the fourth-worst rushing defense, are going to be tasked with doing so twice a year.

What Bengals fans can lean on, however, is that the Steelers needed a running back for a reason. Their offensive line couldn’t create enough running lanes for the running backs they did have and the hope here is that they continue to struggle in doing so, making things challenging for Harris.

Sometimes Alabama running backs have issues when they enter the league because they’re used to having the best offensive line in all of football. Harris won’t have that when he gets to Pittsburgh but he rushed for over 1,400 yards last year and found the end zone 30 times altogether. The fact of the matter is that he’s going to be a nightmare to face.

The Bengals have enough to worry about without taking these three rookies into account. Can the offensive line protect Joe Burrow from Jeremiah Owusu-Koramah? Can the secondary prevent Rashod Bateman from going for over 100 yards? Can the defense limit Najee Harris’ production?

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These are all questions we’ll be asking ourselves as the season inches closer but the AFC North definitely got tougher this offseason and considering how tough the division already is, that’s saying something.