Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-year defender Marcus Allen is going to see a lot of NFL running backs this preseason, his first complete year as a linebacker after the team converted him from safety. For now, he is seeing a lot of Najee Harris, the Steelers’ first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and starting running back for this season.
Through four days of training camp and multiple days of the backs-on-backers drill, Allen and Harris have been a common matchup. Allen began the reps strong on Day 1, but Harris got his shots in on future reps that day and on Day 3. Getting as close a view as anybody has of Pittsburgh’s new tone-setter in the ground game, Allen had praise for his teammate during a Saturday media session following camp.
“I love it. Najee, he doesn’t duck no bump. He’s 240 for sure. He’s strong, and I mean it’s a great bump to go against iron on iron,” Allen said. Harris is actually listed lower than 240 by the team, a detail Allen refuted with a big smile after facing him in that drill several times. “Oh, he’s all muscle 240. Definitely,” Allen said.
Not the only matchup for either player in camp, Allen and Harris were linked by one incident on the first day when Harris tossed Allen to the ground after a rep ended. There was no dust-up following when the two went at it again, or two days later. It’s just been a serious of excellent battles between two young players in camp.
“It got hot, but you know that’s just two competitive people going at it. And after practice, life is back to normal. That’s my brother,” Allen said. “That’s how competition goes. Once I get him, he’s going to get a little in his ego. And once he gets me, I’m getting back in my ego. So it’s Clash of the Titans. We’re going to have head-on-head collisions, like going smack at each other. After all that calmed down and all the testosterone goes down, we get back to being teammates.”
Their first game together is next Thursday, when the Steelers face the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game. Their next match-up in camp is likely coming sooner than that, and the two seem to be bringing out the competitive best in each other each rep.