Though the stat line may not reflect it, Najee Harris felt like a new man on the field Sunday afternoon. Playing in his first game since taking out the steel plate in his toe due to a Lisfranc injury suffered this spring, Harris told reporters he felt much better today compared to the first five.
Here’s what he said, via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor.
As Pryor’s tweet notes, Harris said his foot couldn’t flex or bend. While Harris said earlier this week the plate didn’t impact his burst, it certainly sounds like it impacted his ability to cut and change directions. A rock in the shoe is enough to throw a person off, so a steel plate probably didn’t feel too good.
It’s a subtle sign of health for Harris, who has played hurt since nearly his first literal carry. Harris suffered the sprain on the first day of padded training camp practice. He missed roughly the next month of action, returning for the preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, but had struggled all season. He recently lost third down duty to rookie RB Jaylen Warren, a trend which continued today, and Harris and the Steelers’ ground game found little success. Harris ended today with 14 carries for 42 yards, three yards a pop. But he found the end zone on a short receiving touchdown, wide open in the left flat for a walk-in score. He also ran hard late in the game, one of his best carries coming on an eight-yard pile-moving play where he carried multiple Bucs’ players downfield.
Tampa Bay is a tough front to run on, and a softer defense next week along with Harris feeling healthier could go a long way.
While Pittsburgh needed a win any way possible, there’s still plenty of work for this team to do. They’re just 2-4 and need to win at least one of these next two games to get to 3-5 entering the bye week. They’ll look for their first winning streak of the season next Sunday night against the Miami Dolphins, a team getting healthier in their own right.