After lobbying last week to play some preseason snaps ahead of the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers second-year star running back Najee Harris is getting his wish.
According to a tweet from Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley, head coach Mike Tomlin stated that Harris will play in the preseason finale Sunday at Acrisure Stadium against the Detroit Lions, he announced during his non-televised press conference following practice Friday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side.
Asked specifically if Harris would get some carries, Tomlin was quick to answer definitely regarding his star running back.
“Absolutely, Tomlin said, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “We’re gonna be inclusive, man. All the healthy guys are scheduled to play.”
Harris, who has been dealing with a foot injury throughout much of camp since the pads came on, has yet to play in the preseason in games against the Seattle Seahawks and Jacksonville Jaguars, leaving the reps up to the likes of Benny Snell Jr., Anthony McFarland, Jaylen Warren, Mataeo Durant, Master Teague III and Max Borghi.
His foot injury he’s dealt with in training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe has been a bit of a blessing in disguise, as it’s kept him out of the lineup and mostly off the field in contact situations. However, Harris – who returned to practice last week — is itching to get back onto the field in a game situation, and stated last week ahead of the Jaguars’ preseason matchup that he expected to play in one of the two remaining preseason games, he stated to Missi Matthews and Mike Prisuta for Steelers.com’s Training Camp Live wrap-up show.
“There’s been a lot of conversations with me and Mike T about me playing this game, bare minimum playing the last game, but I am playing one of these preseason games,” Harris said to Matthews and Prisuta, according to video via Steelers.com. “I do want reps and I do want carries so I can get a feel of the game again. I don’t want my first live action to be against the Bengals and practice. Mike T, you know, he obviously is the head guy, so he makes the rules, so I can’t really get that much live reps and practice. So, it’s only right if I get some preseason reps.”
After making that public plea to play some snaps in the preseason, Harris is getting his wish against the Lions on Sunday at Acrisure Stadium at 4:30 p.m. How long he stays in the game or how many reps he gets remains to be seen. There is something to be said for getting some work during the preseason to help your body readjust to some of the physicality it will deal with throughout the 17-game season. It’s still a major risk for the Steelers to be taking overall with the focal point of their offense in Harris.
Here’s hoping the second-year star gets a carry or two, gets his feet wet and then has his helmet taken away for the rest of the game. The meaningless wear and tear on Sunday just won’t be worth it in the long run for the workhorse running back, especially this season.