On the surface, Najee Harris’ stat line in his first NFL game doesn’t look like much. Seven carries, 22 yards and one reception that went for three. But that’s why you watch the tape. Harris ran hard, pushed the pile, and put in a well-rounded performance.
To Mike Tomlin, it was no surprise. It was the same as he showed at Heinz Field. Tonight was just in a new stadium, under the lights.
“I did,” Tomlin said after the game when asked if Harris had a good showing. “I thought he showed some of the things he’s been showing in practice settings. We weren’t looking for the spectacular. I talked with him and others during the course of the week. We wanted to make routine plays routinely. We wanted the pile to fall forward and things of that nature. He did all the things we’ve been watching him do. So a really good start.”
Harris’ first carry went for six yards, a nice jump cut right side before putting his head down into the pile of Cowboys’ defenders. His next two carries went for five and six yards. Rarely did he go down on first contact tonight and showed a physicality and aggressive demeanor – granted, in preseason action – the run game lacked last season.
That type of skillset might be a good thing too. The Steelers’ offensive line has more questions than answers and only one presumed starter, center Kendrick Green, logged time tonight. The front five has yet to take a snap together in training camp, though the team has the benefit of a longer runway to the regular season than 30 other teams.
Harris saw more action than most people likely anticipated, playing well into the second quarter. But Tomlin made it clear Harris wasn’t getting a pass. Like every other rookie, he needs to prove himself. Today was the first step in that direction.