Steelers News

Tomlin ‘Challenged Me To Get Downhill’, Najee Harris Says After First 100-Yard Game Of Season

The Pittsburgh Steelers on the whole have been one of the best rushing offenses in the league over the second half of the season. Granted, it’s been a while it feels like since we’ve been able to say that, and it hasn’t been as consistent as you would like from week to week.

But it certainly showed in last night’s thrilling win against the Baltimore Ravens, a monumental road win against a divisional opponent that keeps their season alive through the final game of the regular season. While the win ultimately was secured through the air, it was the ground game that got them there. And that was by design.

“That was a challenge. The first time we played them this year, that was a challenge”, running back Najee Harris said about facing the Baltimore Ravens’ run defense for the second time this year, via the team’s website. “They’ve got a great run defense. They’ve got a great defense in general. We knew if we could control the line then we would be able to win the game”.

“With this rivalry, that’s what it’s gonna be like. When we control the line of scrimmage, we win the game”, he added. “That’s just plain and simple. That is what Mike T challenged us, his offense. He challenged me to get downhill and run on them. And that’s what we did. We executed the plan”.

For his part, Harris posted a season-high 111 rushing yards on 22 carries, averaging five yards per rush, in what was probably the most physical display he has shown since he was drafted. He certainly played to his size, consistently falling forward throughout the night, churning out the tough yards.

Number two back Jaylen Warren also contributed significantly, adding 76 rushing yards on 12 carries, those being the only two players with more than five rushing attempts. Both wide receiver Gunner Olszewski and fullback Derek Watt gained first downs on one rushing attempt each.

In all, they rushed for exactly 200 yards on 39 attempts when you remove kneeldowns, averaging over 5.1 yards per rush as a team, and without a lot of trickery or gadgets. They picked up 22 first downs as an offense, and 13 of them came on the ground.

As Harris alluded to, the key difference was the offense doing a much better job of controlling the line of scrimmage. They had few negative runs on the whole, and that’s a credit to the offensive line in big part, but both Harris and Warren ran with power and rarely went down on first—or second—contact.

It served the critical role of keeping them ahead of the chains for most of the night, which allowed them to go 10-for-16 on third down, yet they must still work on finishing drives. They got three field goals in the game (plus another that was missed, drives that must find the end zone.

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