It may not have been the debut Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie running back Najee Harris was hoping for in Week 1 on the road against the Buffalo Bills, but the good news for the first-round pick out of Alabama is that he’s just one day away from taking on a Las Vegas Raiders’ run defense that struggled to stop the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1.
In Week 1, Harris had just six of 16 runs that were successful in his NFL debut, which isn’t quite what you want to see from a run game that had high expectations coming into the year with a rebuilt offensive line and a budding star at running back.
Despite the struggles in Week 1, Harris and the run game in Pittsburgh will improve and improve quickly, according to NFL Network’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who put together a nine-year career at running back in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Oakland Raiders.
Jones-Drew pegged Harris as one of three running backs poised to bounce back in Week 2, including Dallas Cowboys star Ezekiel Elliott and Tennessee standout Derrick Henry.
“The Steelers had the worst run game in the league last season, and though we didn’t see much change in Week 1, there’s still plenty of reason to believe Harris will get the rushing attack headed in the right direction,” Jones-Drew writes. “The rookie was on the field for 100 percent of the team’s offensive snaps — the only RB to accomplish this in Week 1 — and rushed for 45 yards on 16 carries in his debut against Buffalo’s stout defense…It’s quite reasonable to expect better production from the first-round pick in Week 2, with the Steelers playing host to a Raiders team that just gave up a league-worst 189 rushing yards to a depleted Ravens backfield. The time is now for Pittsburgh to get the rushing attack back on track.”
While Harris shouldn’t be on the field for 100% of the snaps in Week 2 at home, there should be more of an emphasis on establishing the run early and often against the Raiders in the home opener at Heinz Field Sunday. Playing at home will allow Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers’ offense to use a normal count, rather than a silent count like they did on the road, allowing the Steelers to get going downhill against a banged up Raiders’ front.
Don’t be surprised if Harris has his first, true coming-out game at Heinz Field on Sunday in the home opener.