Heading into the 2021 NFL preseason, most teams will sit their starting running backs to assure they’re healthy at the start of the year. But according to head coach Mike Tomlin, that won’t be the case for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In a recent training camp press conference, Tomlin indicated that rookie running back Najee Harris could be on the field for each of the Steelers’ four preseason games this season.
Pittsburgh is set to face off against the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday.
“He’s a rookie,” Tomlin said, per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Man, he needs the process of game preparation and ultimately play. We’ve got four opportunities for him to do that.”
Sounds like Steelers first-round pick Najee Harris will see the field in Canton, although how much is TBD: "He's a rookie. Man, he needs the process of game preparation and ultimately play. We've got four opportunities for him to do that," says Mike Tomlin.
— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 3, 2021
After four seasons with the Alabama Crimson Tide, including an incredible 30 touchdown year in 2020, Harris was drafted by the Steelers with the No. 24 overall pick. With the Steelers finishing dead last in NFL rushing (84.4 yards per game) through the 2020 season and former starting running back James Conner leaving in free agency earlier this offseason, the first-round pick will be forced to have an immediate impact on the Pittsburgh rush game.
Playing in 51 games through his collegiate career, Harris has proven himself as a durable running back option. That being said, he did suffer a tweaked right ankle late in the Tide’s 2020 national championship season — limiting his pre-draft process.
Harris has since been completely cleared of that injury and will be ready to go on Thursday.
Hopefully the Steelers’ new hope at running back can stay healthy through these first four preseason tests.