The Pittsburgh Steelers added a vet to its roster after losing Jerald Hawkins for the season during last week’s OTAs, bringing in OT Bryce Harris to replace him. Harris is the definition of a journeyman, playing on his 7th team since 2012, and that’s not including multiple stints with the same team.
Though he is a vet by definition, it’s difficult to get a read on what kind of player the Steelers are getting because he’s barely seen meaningful playtime in the last three years. He’s played just two snaps over the last two years and 16 over the past three. He hasn’t seen significant time since 2014, an eternity by the NFL’s standards and tape that frankly isn’t really even worth looking at anymore.
So I decided to just give a brief overview of what the team might be getting with Harris, looking at what he did last preseason while with the New Orleans Saints. By no means is this a complete evaluation, just a couple of takeaways – good and bad – from the three weeks I watched.
For starters, he worked as the Saints’ second-team right tackle in all three games behind starter Zach Strief. The Steelers generally like to work their backups at both tackle spots so I wouldn’t be surprised Harris to get action at each but the Saints mainly had him on the right side.
Here are the positive traits in his game from my limited viewing.
The Good: Big frame and good length…uses it to his advantage to engulf smaller rush ends, hard guy to get around and makes up for a lack of athleticism…good IQ and veteran experience lets him recognize and pick up stunts and blitzes with ease…drives his feet in the run game and size/power creates a bit of a push and leverage (again, hard to get around)
Like I said earlier, the tough part in evaluating him is that he’s a vet with years under his belt going against mostly younger/less experienced players. So naturally, a guy like Harris should at least look competent. The best thing he has going for him is his size, entering the 2012 draft at 6’6, 300 and it looks like he’s put on a good deal of weight since then.
His mass makes him a tough guy to get around. He’s #79, the right tackle, in all these clips. Good pass set, at the junction point, and Carl Nassib can’t get around him. Preserves the pocket.
And he definitely has a strong football IQ. Not going to be late picking up stunts or delayed blitzes.
Here’s what I saw negatively in his game.
The Bad: Hand placement is often too high and he struggles to land a solid punch and play to his power…”catches” too often against bull rushes and can get knocked off his spot, trouble anchoring and too often gives up the inside to the pass rusher…waist bender in pass protection and struggles to seal the edge, not a good enough athlete versus speedy edge rushers…struggles to hit spot when climbing to 2nd level in the run game…marginal athlete all-around
Pass protection was an adventure, as these clips should help show. This time, the speedier/bendier Nate Orchard rips under him to join in on the sack.
The good news is the Steelers are bringing in a guy who knows how the league work, how practices go, what coaches expect of you, and not someone new to the league who has already missed out on most of the spring work. I’m not expecting Harris to make the team, and honestly, it’s probably a bad sign if he does, but he’s a competent vet so Mason Rudolph and Josh Dobbs don’t die in the preseason.
I compared Harris a bit to Guy Whimper but Harris doesn’t even have that level of gameday experience.