It seems safe to say that 2015 looks much different for Pittsburgh Steelers first-year running back Josh Harris in comparison to his rookie season. Following the draft, Harris struggled to find himself a team, and his future seemed uncertain. When training camps around the league began to open in 2014, he was unemployed.
For the Steelers, training camp opened up right around the same time last season as it is slated to open this year. They brought their 90-man roster with them to Latrobe, and Harris was not on that roster. It was four or five days into training camp, when the team put offensive lineman David Snow out for waivers after an injury, that they used the open roster spot to sign Harris.
The move was made because their running back on the practice squad from the previous season, Alvester Alexander, had been dealing with injuries. A few days after Harris was signed, in fact, Alexander, too, was waived injured. In a corresponding move, they signed another running back, who was waived just 10 days later.
The point of all of this, of course, is to emphasize the fact that Harris did not have the opportunity to have a full offseason, making his transition into the league in his first year a difficult one. At this point last year, in fact, he wasn’t even on a roster.
His training camp experience as a rookie was a truncated one, but by the end, he was headed back to Pittsburgh on an NFL team’s 90-man roster, having survived while two other running backs did not. Back in Pittsburgh, he continued to beat the odds as the Steelers released three more running backs ahead of him.
Harris was ultimately released as well, of course. But he was signed to the team’s practice squad, even if he failed to make the 53-man roster. Which means that even his rookie season was a truncated one. That is why he is classified as a first-year player, after all, because he was only promoted from the practice squad late in the season with five games remaining.
All of these limitations, it would seem, resulted in an inexperienced and limited running back, and though he did nothing overtly negative during his brief in-game appearances, it was clear that he had not yet fully gained his coaches’ confidence.
The year of 2015 has been a significantly different one, starting with a playoff performance in which he led the team in carries and rushing yards. He has now been with the organization for almost an entire year, and has had the chance to actually go through the offseason process with the Steelers, now heading into training camp actually knowing what to expect.
Harris is the favorite to occupy the roster spot that will be available during the early part of the season that entails the three-game suspension of Le’Veon Bell. During that period, he will be expected to show that he is capable of being a legitimate number two back in support of DeAngelo Williams. Because if he doesn’t, he may find that the year 2015 will be truncated as well once Bell is reinstated.