The sequence in the redzone in Week 10 at Heinz Field against the Detroit Lions was as puzzling as it was ugly for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The scene: first and goal from the 5 yard line, Steelers trailing the Lions 16-10, 8:42 left in the third quarter. The Steelers reached the redzone thanks to a scrambles of 26 and 11 yards from Mason Rudolph and appeared poised to take the lead back from a team that wasn’t quite on their level, talent wise.
Instead, the Steelers couldn’t punch the football in from 5 yards out as Rudolph fired behind James Washington on an RPO near the goal line on first down. Rudolph then had to throw the football away on second down. Third down? A short-hop misfire to a wide open Ray-Ray McCloud in the end zone, forcing the Steelers to settle for a Chris Boswell field goal and a 16-13 deficit.
Know what’s missing in that sequence? A Najee Harris touch or two.
On Friday, Harris was asked about the play calling in the redzone and his thoughts on not getting a touch by media members. A well-versed, schooled rookie, Harris deflected and downplayed the question, stating he just has to execute the plays called to the best of his abilities and worry about himself, rather than the play calls or what the quarterback wants to do.
It was a tough spot to be in, especially in front of microphones and cameras just days removed from an embarrassing tie, but the rookie handled it well.
“…It’s not my decision at the end of the day, but I mean, I’ll say a little bit of stuff, even if they stack the box we can get at least chopped down like two or three yards and then it could be a shorter second, third down” Harris said to reporters Friday, according to video via Steelers.com. “But, at the end of the day, it’s not my decision.”
Asked if he could do anything differently on RPO calls to try and help backup quarterback Mason Rudolph out, Harris quickly shot down the question, considering running backs can’t do anything but take the handoff in an RPO as they are not the true decision makers in those instances.
“I can’t do nothing. The quarterback got some stuff they gotta do, right? I got stuff I got to worry about,” Harris added. “At the end of the day, whatever the quarterback calls, it is what it is. I just got to execute the plays. I can’t really do nothing right there. That’s out of my jurisdictions.”
It could be easy to read into those responses from Harris and see some disgust in the answers alone, but the tone wasn’t anywhere near as deadpanned or cutting as they may read.
As I wrote earlier, Harris was put in a really tough spot here with the questions, but he handled them well, answering as best as he could without coming off as a rookie questioning the play calling or the decision making of a veteran quarterback.
You can bet though that if the Steelers find themselves in a similar situation on Sunday Night Football against the Los Angeles Chargers, Harris is getting the football multiple times.