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2022 South Side Questions: How Will Steelers Divide RB Workload On Short Week With Najee Harris’ Foot?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side facility, now into the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train all year round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everybody refers to by its full name.

There are still unsettled questions that need answering, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting lineup, in scheme, and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even questions about who’s starting and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as midseason changes are certainly quite possible, for some positions more than others. We’re also feeling out how the new coordinator posts—or posts in new contexts—end up playing out.

There’s never any shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we’ll be discussing them here on a daily basis for the community to “talk amongst yourselves”, as Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: How will the workload at running back be divided between Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, and Benny Snell Jr. knowing that the Steelers are playing on a short week, with their next game on Thursday night?

The Steelers are coming off of a season-opening victory over the rival Cincinnati Bengals on the road, who were highly favored. They are now preparing for their home opener at Acrisure Stadium against the once-threatening New England Patriots, who have suddenly become much more mortal over the past couple of seasons since Tom Brady moved on.

Their starting quarterback, Mac Jones, had some back issues this week, even if he finished the week of practice without an injury designation. So, too, did the Steelers’ Pro Bowl running back, Najee Harris, who left in the fourth quarter of the opener with a foot injury.

Harris was a full go in practice for most of the week and has signaled that there is no injury issue with his foot and that he is ready to go for Sunday. But even if his foot wasn’t injured, the Steelers enter today’s game knowing that they will have a short turnaround with their next game on Thursday.

The Steelers showed confidence in rookie college free agent running back Jaylen Warren after Harris went down, although he did not touch the ball too much (under the circumstances, at that point in the game, Harris probably wasn’t going to, either).

But the question is, will the Steelers be looking to protect Harris, and to what extent, to make sure that they will also have him available on Thursday, and at full capacity? They want to get the run game going, yet they haven’t even been able to do that at full health, let alone with their inexperienced number two back.

Head coach Mike Tomlin has scaled back workloads in the past when it comes to games with short turnarounds for the next one, so I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if we see a decent amount of Warren, with a splash of Benny Snell Jr. mixed in as well.

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