Though he was able to come back from an elbow injury suffered on the first drive of the game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie running back Najee Harris has missed practice this week, which is causing some concern for Steelers’ first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
Canada, speaking with reporters on Thursday ahead of the Steelers’ Wild Card Game matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, credited Harris for coming back into the game and making key plays in overtime to help lead the Steelers to victory, but with the rookie running back missing time this week, he’s already planning ahead for a dose of Benny Snell Jr. and Kalen Ballage, should Harris be unable to go.
“My concern is high. Obviously, I want him to be at full strength,” Canada said to reporters Thursday, according to the official transcript provided by the team. “Every week we always come out here to talk about that and where we are and until we get to Sunday, we never quite know how those things are going to play out at every position. It’s just where we are this season, a 17-game season, and all those things everybody’s had to deal with.
“So, we’re certainly hopeful he’s going to be able to go play and if he’s not then, KB [Kalen Ballage], Benny [Snell] are going to come in there and do a really good job for us. So, we’ll just see where we are at the time. He’s a special player for us.”
Harris certainly is a special player for the Steelers, and he showed just how special in overtime against the Ravens, making a one-handed catch and making Ravens’ linebacker Patrick Queen miss in space. Then, Harris capped off the drive with a 15-yard run off left tackle that set up Chris Boswell’s 36-yard game-winning field goal, helping the Steelers stay alive in the playoff picture.
That display in overtime was exactly what the Steelers needed and was a stark reminder of just how good Harris is.
“Says he’s the guy that we said he was the whole time,” Canada said in response to a question asking what Harris’s return from injury showed about him. “He made a one-handed catch and some really big runs. I think he was really effective when he came back and certainly says a lot about him as a person and how much of a team player he is. How much he wants to win. He loves to compete, and he loves to win.”
It was a bit puzzling to see Harris return so late in the game after missing all but the first drive of the game with the elbow injury, forcing Snell to carry the load in the backfield for most of the game. Though he missed a significant number of snaps, Harris was rearing to get back onto the field, according to Canada.
“Obviously, he wanted to get in as soon as possible. We’re going to always take care of our guys,” Canada added. “Coach Tomlin does such a great job, that’s why he is who he is and why we are where we are. And where this organization is where it’s at, in my opinion, but we’re never going to put a guy in a bad spot. But yeah, Naj[ee] wanted to get back in right away. We just have to protect him as well. But he’s a great competitor and I’m really glad he came back in when he did because he made some really big plays.”