There are many things that the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to accomplish coming out of last night’s preseason finale, paramount among those failings being the ability to stay healthy. The team saw three offensive linemen go down with injuries that will have them scouring the waiver wire just to fill up the practice squad.
From a practical standpoint, however, at least with respect to the first two games of the season, perhaps the even bigger failing was the inability to find anything of value out of the backup running back position heading into the regular season in less than a week.
Of course, the long-term backup role for the season is more than locked down by veteran DeAngelo Williams, who has impressed in limited preseason work. But he will be the starter for the first two games of the season while All-Pro starter Le’Veon Bell sits out that period in order to serve a suspension.
Behind Williams is really a whole bunch of nothing, or so it seems, with the most tenured of the group being second-year third-round compensatory selection Dri Archer—all 5’7”, 173 pounds of him. Archer is not a true backup running back who can carry the load. He is good for a handful of creative touches per game, and cannot function as a legitimate number two option in a game.
So the search for Williams’ backup for the first two games of the season does not go through Archer. Instead, we have over the course of the offseason—really, since first learning of Bell’s suspension—to Josh Harris, who spent the last few games of last season on the 53-man roster and received the most carries in the Steelers’ playoff loss.
But the first-year player got a very long burn in each of the last two preseason games, receiving nearly every carry last night, and he simply completely failed to deliver. Even on the two times in which he managed to break through a hole, he stumbled, failing to crack a single double-digit-yardage carry throughout all of the preseason.
More egregiously, his work in pass protection has certainly been as bad as it has ever been, as he was responsible for giving up three sacks over the course of the past two games. With such ha poor performance as that, the Steelers cannot trust him to be on the field with their prized investment in Ben Roethlisberger.
The Steelers made it clear that Jawon Chisholm was not in the running for the job after he received no work last night. In reality, at this point, it may well be fullback/tight end Will Johnson who is the best option to serve as Williams’ backup.
It would be foolish on the part of the team not to look hard at the waiver wire at the running back position over the course of the next couple of days, as they will assuredly be able to find multiple options that can outperform Harris, even without having a familiarity with the Steelers’ system. He has been the go-to name by default, but he simply does not deserve it.