Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris has gotten dinged here and there over the course of his rookie season, as you would expect any full-time starting running back to experience over the course of a year.
He still managed to play 75 percent of his team’s snaps or more in all but three games this year, and he never dipped below 50 percent. His lowest total was just last week, when he had to leave against the Baltimore Ravens after injuring his arm on the opening drive. He returned in the third quarter, however, and remained out there through overtime, making a couple of crucial plays on the final game-winning drive.
The rookie did not practice for the team until today, but though he is listed as questionable, it certainly appears as though he is expected to play for the Steelers in their Wild Card game tomorrow night against the Kansas City Chiefs. And you can expect to see the same player out there who’s played all season.
“In this sport, in this league, so much contact, you can’t really say I’m gonna be [more cautious]. I’m not gonna play different”, he told reporters yesterday about playing through an arm injury. “You can’t do that. Especially at the running back position. It’s already a physical position. You’ve just got to have in your mind that, obviously you’re still gonna be hurt, but also protect yourself, but still play the game how you play it”.
Harris injured his dominant right arm while attempting to evade a tackle on the third play of the game, reaching to the turf to adjust his body only to have his elbow bend the wrong way. He was in obvious immediate pain, and would not return until nearly 10 minutes into the third quarter.
He told reporters yesterday that they initially tried to fit him with a brace, but he felt that it restricted his movement too much and would not allow him to secure the ball. He told them to simply tape his arm back up, and he went back out there—using his left arm whenever possible to secure the ball, instead.
Presumably, he will not be shying away from using his dominant arm this time, having had a week to heal since then, and receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection to help speed recovery. He no doubt knows there is the possibility defenders will target his injured arm.
How one goes about looking out for an injured limb while also continuing to play the game naturally at a position as physically demanding as the running back position, I can’t say. If anybody can play well and still protect himself, however, I would say Harris has as good as chance as any.