An offensive line is the sum of its parts. It’s bigger than one man, a group of five generally getting a collective pass/fail grade each week. But a running back is an extension of that. For rookie Najee Harris, his team around the front five makes him an honorary sixth offensive lineman.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Dotson discussed the relationship Harris has with the big guys up front and the benefit it has for the entire offense.
“Definitely for the offensive line, to know what he’s thinking,” he told reporters in audio courtesy of the team. “If we’re doing a run play, we want to know where he’s thinking, where he’s looking first. So we know how to block. So if we know that on this play, he wants to go backside. We know we can push it more this way, or we can do it this way. So it definitely helps us gel a little bit.”
Every running back is a little bit different. How quickly they hit the hole, what they like to do on zone schemes, and the general timing and rhythm of the entire play. Working together as a group, as opposed to running backs and linemen separately, is a critical part of run game success.
The Steelers’ run game was an overhauled and youthful-looking group. Two rookies in LT Dan Moore Jr. and C Kendrick Green along with Dotson, a second-year player who started just four games as a rookie. RT Chukwuma Okorafor is the longest tenured starter and though Trai Turner is the wise one in the room, he was brand new to the Steelers, signed this summer after David DeCastro’s ankle needed another surgery. Harris, of course, was a rookie, the team’s first round pick. Pittsburgh’s taken a bunch of new faces and made it work. After going through predictable growing pains the first month of the season, the run game has taken clear steps forward.
Dotson said Harris’ relationship to the O-line isn’t unique. But it is important.
“Most running backs, usually like to be cool with the offensive line, Just because, those are your guys. If you want to get a good result, you should get in good with them.”
Pittsburgh should have success this weekend against Detroit, whose run defense is middling at best. There are some question marks with the health of the group. Green and Harris were limited yesterday due to injury. Dotson indicated Green is likely to play Sunday but Harris’ media session was cancelled Friday, putting his availability in question. He was limited with a foot injury Thursday. Pittsburgh will release their final injury report shortly.