It’s hard to look on the bright side when you have a .250 winning percentage, which takes at least three losses to achieve. That’s where the Pittsburgh Steelers are right now. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any in the way of positives to take away from what we have seen through the first quarter of the season.
One of the few (mostly) consistent bright spots of the season has been rookie running back Najee Harris, the Steelers’ first-round draft pick back in April. While he has naturally had some rookie moments, like everybody has, he has arguably been their best player on offense, between him and Diontae Johnson. And they’ll need more of him, and better, going forward, which is what they expect to get.
“I’m encouraged and excited about his continual development and the progression of that development”, head coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “He’s good, we’ve seen that, but he’s continually getting better, and that’s been on display throughout the first four games of the season as well”.
While his numbers have not been eye-popping, Harris has produced 363 yards from scrimmage on 81 touches through four games. He has 185 rushing yards on 55 attempts with one touchdown, in addition to 178 receiving yards on 26 receptions and another touchdown. He is on track to record over 100 catches as a rookie, though that is heavily influenced by his franchise-record-for-a-running-back 14-catch game last week.
But most important is the fact that he is getting better every week. He will still make mistakes—he misjudged a block in pass protection on one play as I recall deep in the Steelers’ end on Sunday—but they will be fewer and less significant as the weeks wear on.
“I think it’s reasonable to expect that to continue”, Tomlin said of his rookie runner. “This guy’s unbelievably talented. He’s a competitor. I like his preparation. He’s passionate about football. I’m excited about what the near future and the future in general holds for Harris”.
That is why he has been comfortable with the rookie logging 238 offensive snaps so far this season, or 93 percent of the Steelers’ total offensive snaps to date. He has gotten a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time, even averaging just over 20 touches per game.
And that can realistically be expected to increase as times moves on and, hopefully, the run game becomes more efficient. Tomlin also said during his press conference yesterday that he felt that did not have enough quantity of rushes on Sunday.