Najee Harris’ box score from Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game might not stand out, but the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back showed why he’ll be the club’s workhorse in 2021.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin liked what he saw from Harris in the 16-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
“I thought that he showed some of the things that he’s been showing in practice settings,” Tomlin said, per the team’s official website. “That’s what we were looking for. We weren’t looking for the spectacular. I talked to him and others during the course of the week. We wanted to make routine plays, routinely. We wanted the pile to fall forward and things of that nature. He did all of the things we’ve been watching him do. It’s a really good start for him.”
Playing into the second quarter, Harris toted the rock seven times for 22 yards and added a reception on a screen that went for three yards. Harris’ 3.1 yards per carry are eye-popping, but the rookie displayed the power, ability to get to the edge, and pass-game acumen to be a three-down RB right out of the gate.
“He wasn’t wide-eyed. He was ready for prime time, ready for action,” backup QB Mason Rudolph said of Harris, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN.
Harris’ long run went for six, but he showed the ability to put a shoulder into a defender and grind out extra yards after contact, something the Steelers sorely missed from their backs last season. He also owns enough speed to get to the edge, displayed patience to the line of scrimmage, and good balance. Another key was the lack of negative plays from the RB. Just one of Harris’ runs lost yardage. If Pittsburgh can avoid the lost-yardage negative plays that plagued it last year, off the bat, they’re in better shape.
Looking like a Steven Jackson replica, Harris might not have blasted off a big gallop Thursday night, but he displayed the qualities that will make him a difference-maker in Pittsburgh. During preseason action, we aren’t looking for massive stats from those who play, but whether they display the traits that will carry over once the real games start. Harris fits that bill for the Steelers.
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