The first month of this season has probably been as challenging as any for Pittsburgh Steelers’ RB Najee Harris. It’s been a slog, a grind, and probably pretty painful, running into brick wall after brick wall all to gain two yards and walk away with a loss. But anything worth wanting is on the other side of hard. And in his fifth game, Harris got a heck of a reward for all his work.
Harris had a career-high 122 yards in Sunday’s win over the Denver Broncos, finding the end zone once and averaging a very healthy 5.3 yards per carry. Speaking after the game, right guard Trai Turner, one man responsible for opening up run lanes for Harris, said he could see the positive impact a game like this had on a rookie back.
“You could see the boost in his morale,” Turner said after the game. “You could see his smile is a little bit bigger, a little bit brighter. I’m just happy for him. And I was happy for the kid last week when he was able to get in the end zone man, and finally get a rushing touchdown. It’s all about watching it and seeing everybody prosper.”
Harris’ 122 yards this afternoon come within earshot of the total he had through his first four games, 185 yards. He would have moved closer to that mark had it not been for a leg injury, what appeared to be cramps, that kept him out for most of the fourth quarter. Still, Harris ran well enough in three quarters for a day’s work. For the first time all year, the Steelers were able to stay on schedule and stick to their gameplan. They routinely won on first down, leading to more manageable third down situations, and consistently pushed Denver’s line back at the point of attack.
Turner is one reason for that success. A physical player and better run blocker than pass protector, he’s become a steady veteran presence on a team full of young players. Turner is new to the Steelers but not to the league, a five-time Pro Bowler who has been through the highs and lows of seasons and his own career. And he’s keeping the win in perspective for a team who still sits one game under .500.
“We know we have plenty more out there to go get. But it starts with being 1-0. So we’re 1-0. We’re going to enjoy this tonight and then come back to the drawing board tomorrow.”
Back at that drawing board, the atmosphere will be a little bit cheerier and the smiles a little bit bigger. Especially Najee’s.