The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping that a road trip up north is what is needed to wash the bitter taste out of their mouths from a double dose of some poor home cooking they served while hosting the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Green Bay Packers do not intend to be hospitable hosts, but in this league, you have to impose yourself. And that’s exactly what Steelers rookie running back Najee Harris is capable of doing—what Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is preparing for.
“He can do it not only in the run game but in the pass game. He is a big, physical back”, he told reporters last week. “We watched a clip of him where he stiff-armed a Raiders defensive back and threw him down on his back and was able to get extra yards. There were a couple of clips in the Cincinnati game where he caught a ball out of the backfield, and he gets 20 yards and makes five guys miss”.
Harris has no doubt had some highlights so far in his young career, even if the majority of them have so far come in the passing game. Given the manner in which the offensive line has blocked so far, or not blocked, it’s not surprising. Getting him the ball in his hands in more open space allows him to create more real estate for himself—and hop over a guy or two.
One thing we do know about Harris in this early portion of his career is that he’s not easy to bring down, and it’s generally going to take at least two guys. Defenders have been talking about his ‘contact balance’ ever since they put the pads on—his ability to remain upright through contact by utilizing his natural strength and leverage. He’s shown that that translates inside stadiums.
“We’re going to have to swarm around him and do a great job of maintaining leverage and wrapping him up”, LaFleur said, stressing the need to get multiple bodies on the Alabama product to bring him down. “He is a big guy that can make you look silly”.
Unfortunately, he can’t do it all on his own, and the blocking hasn’t given him a lot to work with just yet. While he has missed some opportunities here and there, that is relatively low on the list of problems with the running game, the offensive line being the first through fifth.