2021 South Side Questions: How Much Will RBs Behind Najee Harris Play?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is underway, and they are hoping for a better outcome in comparison to last season. After starting out 11-0, they finished the year 1-4 in the regular season, and then lost in the Wildcard Round to the Cleveland Browns, ignited by a 0-28 first quarter.

They have lost a large number of key players in the offseason, like Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, Mike Hilton, and Steven Nelson, but they’ve also made significant additions as the months have gone on, notably Trai Turner, Melvin Ingram, Joe Schobert, and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also added Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, Kendrick Green, and Dan Moore Jr., all of whom look to be in a starting role (or complementary role in Freiermuth’s case) for the season opener.

There isn’t much left to do but to play the games at this point. They have a 53-man roster, though it will always change to some degree. They still have a lot to figure out, though, such as what Matt Canada’s offense is going to look like in any given week, or how the new-look secondary and offensive line is going to play.

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: How many snaps will running backs not named Najee Harris play for the Steelers next week?

The fact that rookie running back Najee Harris played every snap in the season opener for the Steelers on Sunday has been making the rounds over the course of the past couple of days. It’s a heavy workload, obviously but with a relatively low total snap count and few sustained drives—with 17 total touches—the fact of his playing 100 percent of the snaps is less significant of the nature of the work he did get.

We can reasonably project that Harris is not going to play every single snap of the season. Most likely, there won’t be more than a few games at most this season in which he never comes off the field for even a couple of plays here and there.

Sunday is another game, and another opportunity for the other running backs to play. Anthony McFarland will be on the Reserve/Injured List for at least two more games, but they still have Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage, a pair of veteran players.

What kind of workload will they see against the Las Vegas Raiders in the Steelers’ home opener? Will Pittsburgh be able to establish a rhythm on the round and with sustained drives? If not, then Harris may well play all or nearly all the snaps again, especially if the Raiders manage to control the time of possession, but I certainly don’t think they’re consciously trying to leave Harris on the field.

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