Steelers News

Kenny Pickett Praises Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Says Run Game ‘Took A Step In The Right Direction Today’

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had among the worst running games in the league through the first half of the season. You wouldn’t know it watching them today against the New Orleans Saints. They rushed for 217 yards as a team, their most in a game since 2016, and got contributions by a variety of players.

Najee Harris led the way with 99 rushing yards on 20 attempts in what was his best display yet. That included a season-long 36-yard run in the first half. Jaylen Warren also contributed 37 yards on nine attempts, while quarterback Kenny Pickett had 51 yards on eight attempts. Wide receiver George Pickens rushed twice for 23 yards, while fullback Derek Watt had two short-yardage conversions for five yards.

It was the first game for Pickett under center in which he actually had a run game that could complement the offense, even if they ended up leaving some points on the board—including multiple missed field goals—and he was surely glad to finally have that support.

“Najee and Jaylen did what they do best”, he said after the game, via the team’s website. “We have two really talented backs and we kind of leaned on those guys and I thought we had really good balance today…We took a step in the right direction today”.

The run game was important situationally as well, and helped them go 10-for-17 on third- and fourth-down situations, although they were only 2-for-5 in the red zone, one of which Pickett himself finished off on a one-yard sneak into the end zone. That was only after a penalty in the end zone gave them a new set of downs.

But one can only hope that today’s showing is a sign of things to come from the backfield. It was undoubtedly the best that Harris has looked overall on the season, even if it did mark his first real fumble (which the offense fortunately recovered). Warren had some effective runs, but was most dangerous in run-after-the-catch opportunities.

The game marked the fourth of the season in which the Steelers rushed for at least 100 yards as a team, coming off of their season-best, albeit in a blowout loss, to the Philadelphia Eagles before the bye. They rushed for 144 yards in that one, including 50 from Warren, 32 from Harris, 37 from Pickett, and 22 from Steven Sims, but much of it came with the game already out of reach.

“It’s awesome”, Pickett said of having the support of the run game behind him. “It adds more elements. Third-and-shorts, you can kind of lean on those guys to get it. Extend drives, extend plays. Really happy and proud of the way those guys played by both of them. Great job”.

The distribution in the backfield between Harris and Warren has been an evolving topic throughout the year. Warren got a season-high 12 touches, though it helped that they ran the ball 43 times while limiting Pickett’s pass attempts to just 30, by far their lowest in a game he’s started and finished.

Today’s breakdown looked like a recipe for success. Certainly one they can continue to fine tune, but we’ll savor the aroma of a victory for now.

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