Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris made team history last night, but he did so in rather unremarkable fashion. The rookie first-round pick accumulated just 59 yards from scrimmage against the Los Angeles Chargers, albeit on 17 touches, tied for the second-fewest touches he has had in a game during his young career thus far.
Still, he crossed the 1000-yard mark on the night in yards from scrimmage, becoming the first player in Steelers history to do that in his first 10 career games, and only the 30th player since at least 1950, according to Stathead. And as the guys around him will tell you, his contributions go beyond the numbers.
“He does a lot more than what the stats say”, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the game. “You’re looking at 100-yard games and touchdowns and this and that, but what he does in protection, he caught some balls out of the backfield, continued drives for us. That’s what’s special about him, is he brings a presence and a threat”
He did score a rushing touchdown, his sixth score in the past seven games, and seventh touchdown on the season overall. He briefly left the game in the fourth quarter after taking an elbow to the head and then hitting his head on the ground, but he cleared the concussion protocol to return. “I’m glad to see him back on the field there and doing okay”, Roethlisberger added.
Despite executing 65 plays on offense, Harris only finished the game with 12 carries, for 39 yards, including a one-yard touchdown. He also caught five passes for another 20 yards on a slow night, when it should have been a good one.
The Chargers entered the game with the last-ranked defense, and they were missing two starting defensive linemen. Yet they only ran the ball 18 times as a team all game, three of which were by wide receivers. Roethlisberger threw 44 passes, albeit for 273 yards and three touchdowns. Head coach Mike Tomlin attributed the play-calling to what the Chargers were doing…on offense.
“He’s our featured runner. He’s good in the running game, he’s good in the passing game, he’s good in all circumstances. Our inability to stop [the Chargers] or slow them down really minimized his impact on the game tonight, which is obvious”, he said.
The Steelers are gearing up for a critical pair of divisional games over the next two weeks, heading to Cincinnati next week to face the Bengals, and then hosting the Baltimore Ravens for their first matchup of the season against the division leaders. They’ll need to do better working Harris into the game during that time.