While it has been true for many years in recent times that the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten little productivity on offense or defense out of their rookie players, that has been less of a truism in recent years, particularly, perhaps, over the last two seasons.
While the Steelers have gotten some starts out of rookie offensive linemen over the years, they have gotten greater productivity from skill position players and defensive players in more complicated roles recently, which has been a change of pace—and frankly makes reviewing a draft class after its first season a more enjoyable task.
The Steelers selected nine players in the draft, though only six made the initial 53-man roster. Seven of them remain with the organization. While one undrafted free agent did spend some time on the roster, there are also a few who have spent time on the practice squad that are worth consideration as well.
Player: Josh Harris
Draft Status: Undrafted
Of course, not everybody comes into the league through the draft process. The Steelers themselves have had a number of high profile players who have found great success who never had the luxury of hearing their name called on stage. There are even a few of them in the starting lineup right now, on both sides of the ball.
Unlike in past seasons, however, the Steelers didn’t actually carry any of their rookie undrafted free agents on the 53-man roster initially, and only one of them spent any time on the roster at all, so we will be taking a look at him first.
Josh Harris spent the majority of the regular season on the Steelers’ practice squad after being added to the offseason roster late. He was called up to the 53-man roster after the regular season game against Tennessee that resulted in the release of LeGarrette Blount, but he was limited to only eight snaps leading up to the regular season finale.
Starting running back Le’Veon Bell sustained a knee injury in that finale, which opened the door for Harris to see some snaps, playing 11 in total. While it was difficult for him to find running room, he did break off a 50+ yard run that was called back due to a hold.
It was believed that Harris would be given the start for the Steelers in their Wildcard game against the Ravens, but instead, they chose to field the newly signed Ben Tate to start out the game, possibly worried about the jitters of starting a rookie for the first time in such a big moment.
After Tate fumbled, however, Harris began getting on the field, and ended up seeing more snaps than Tate—21 snaps in all.
In the game, he carried the ball nine times, managing just 25 yards, but the Steelers, and the entire league, had difficulty running the ball against the Ravens in 2014, so it wasn’t much of a surprise.
While the Steelers do seem to like Harris, it’s unclear if there will be a roster spot for him in 2015. The front office is clearly looking for a better number two option at the position, and Dri Archer is likely to take up a third spot.
Whether or not Harris is worth a fourth running back spot will depend on the level of talent at other positions, but the fact that he can always be stashed away on the practice squad with minimal risk may very well keep him there.