With Le’Veon Bell set to miss the first two games of the season, it is by this point fully expected that first-year running back Josh Harris will make the 53-man roster to serve as the primary backup to DeAngelo Williams for the Pittsburgh Steelers during that time.
Harris, who spent his first season in the league in 2014 primarily on the practice squad, and then receiving little playing time behind Bell after he was promoted to the 53-man roster, is a player that the coaching staff seems to like a lot more than can be explained merely by looking at the game tape.
The former undrafted free agent has missed two of the Steelers’ four preseason games thus far, first with a shoulder injury, and then with a foot injury suffered in the second game. When he has taken the field, however, he has not exactly looked like the next diamond in the rough.
Harris has 12 carries thus far in his two preseason games, gaining a total of 28 yards in the process for an average of 2.3 yards per carry, with a long of six yards. He had just 20 yards on 10 carries on Saturday evening against the Bills.
More concerning than his ability to find holes behind a second- or third-string offensive line, however, has been his questionable work in pass protection. He contributed to two of the Steelers’ sacks allowed in Buffalo, which will make it difficult for the coaching staff to trust leaving him out on the field.
Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of it all is that the team has been unable or unwilling to provide him with any meaningful competition for the spot since the draft. The Steelers have already gone through a number of reserve running backs who have had their tenures ended with the team due to injuries.
Currently the only other meaningful running back behind him on the depth chart is Jawon Chisholm, a player that the Steelers called in for a tryout during minicamp, during which they signed Cameron Stingily instead. Chisholm was signed to replace Ross Scheureman, an undrafted free against, and when Stingily, too, was lost, they added Braylon Heard.
Despite the fact that this was regarded as a deep draft for running backs, the Steelers chose not to use one of their selections to add to the pool of Bell and Williams, even without the presence of meaningful depth behind them.
Perhaps this stems from the fact that the team is more fond of Harris than there is currently an in-game explanation for. He certainly has an impressive physique, but he has yet to put it to much good use in a game.
While it doesn’t appear his roster spot is in much jeopardy, it would be a source of comfort if he could perform well in the final preseason game, during which he can expect to receive a lot of work—perhaps the bulk of the work. Otherwise it is virtually assured that he will be released an added to the practice squad after Bell returns.