While there’s a decent chance Pittsburgh Steelers rookie running back Josh Harris will start Saturday night against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field if starter Le’Veon Bell is unable to play due his hyperextended knee injury, head coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t ready to say that scenario is etched in stone when he talked to the media Tuesday.
“It means that we’re looking at our options and obviously Josh Harris is at the top of the list,” said Tomlin when asked if Harris would start if Bell can’t play. “Conventional wisdom would indicate that, but we’re not opposed to going outside the box how we might prepare a winning formula for this football game.”
Harris, who was promoted to the Steelers 53 man roster from the practice squad in November when the team parted ways with disgruntled running back LeGarrette Blount, has impressed Tomlin since joining the team.
“Josh is a hard working guy,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “His story is not a sexy one like a lot of guys. He didn’t come into this league with a lot of fanfare, even to this football team with a lot of fanfare. And really, a lot of us didn’t know a lot about him even after we acquired him, but we pride ourselves in giving every man an opportunity and over the course of his time here.”
If Harris does wind up starting against the Ravens Saturday night, Tomlin said he has confidence in the Wake Forest product.
“I do. I have confidence in anybody that’s on our 53 man roster,” said Tomlin. “If I didn’t, they wouldn’t be on our 53. Anybody can be a reason why we’re successful and I mean that.”
The Steelers did sign free agent running back Ben Tate to the roster Tuesday, but with a short week to prepare for the game against the Ravens, one would think that he might not get too many snaps Saturday night.
The Steelers also have diminutive rookie running back Dri Archer at their disposal in addition to fullback Will Johnson, who Tomlin said Tuesday also gets work at the running back position during practices.
Harris has carried the ball nine times for 16 yards in very limited playing time since he joined the Steelers 53 man roster. In the win Sunday night over the Cincinnati Bengals, however, Harris did have a 59-yard run off right tackle that was unfortunately wiped out by a holding penalty.
We still have several days to go until we ultimately find out if Bell will play against the Ravens and even if Harris doesn’t wind up starting that game Tomlin made it sound like the rookie will see extended playing time Saturday night nonetheless.
“He’s proven that he belongs, not only in terms of talent, but what he’s willing to do. His day-to-day approach to work and so forth. He’s earned the respect of the guys and I’m sure the guys are excited about watching him step up and be a more significant contributor to our efforts,” Tomlin said.