Sunday’s Week 12 performance against the Cincinnati Bengals was quite embarrassing for all parties involved, especially on the offensive side of the football where the Pittsburgh Steelers turned the Bengals’ solid defense into a cheaper version of the ’85 Bears.
Pittsburgh simply couldn’t do anything with the football through the air or on the ground, which essentially took rookie running back Najee Harris out of the game plan, especially with the Steelers falling into an early deficit. In fact, the Steelers really didn’t even try getting Harris involved until the third offensive drive of the game with the Steelers trailing 17-3.
In the end, Harris finished with just 37 yards on 11 touches before being pulled from the game in the fourth quarter to avoid unnecessary wear and tear in a blowout.
Despite the lack of production, NFL.com’s Maurice Jones-Drew kept Harris inside the top 10 in his weekly RB Index for NFL.com, holding down the No. 7 spot in his positional rankings.
“Harris averaged 102.2 scrimmage yards per game coming into Week 12, but an early deficit to the Bengals limited the rookie’s production,” Jones-Drew writes. “He finished with a season-low 37 scrimmage yards in the blowout loss. Pittsburgh is struggling at the wrong time.”
Pittsburgh is certainly struggling at the wrong time, dropping two straight games and tying in another after winning four straight to fully assert themselves into the playoff picture in the AFC under head coach Mike Tomlin.
The struggles certainly aren’t Harris’s fault whatsoever, as he’s consistently hit in the backfield and has to create largely on his own.
That said, it’s hard to believe he’s still sitting at No. 7 in the RB Index at this point, especially coming off of total yardage outputs of 59 and 37 yards in the last two weeks on a combined 28 total touches, with just one touchdown in total.
If the Steelers want to get going again, they’ll need to lean heavily on Harris and get the physical mentality back, which was a key in the Steelers going on a four-game winning streak. It’s no coincidence that the Steelers started winning as Harris’s output on the ground increased, including rushing for at least 80 yards in three of the four games, including a career-high 122-yard output against the Denver Broncos in Week 5.