The Pittsburgh Steelers got here off their bye week and began the second half of the 2022 season on a excessive observe Sunday, defeating the New Orleans Saints 20-10. Pittsburgh’s working recreation confirmed up in a giant method on this one because the crew rushed for 217 yards with six gamers carrying the soccer together with RB Najee Harris who led the way in which with 99 yards dashing.
When diving into the tape, it was encouraging to see each Najee Harris and the offensive line play higher than what they placed on tape to begin the 2022 marketing campaign. There have been a number of examples all through this recreation of the OL opening up holes on the LOS to get Harris into the second stage. Right here is one instance on this zone run the place Harris takes the handoff because the OL will get hats on defenders, creating a giant gap up the center. C #61 Mason Cole picks up a key block, washing #97 Malcom Roach out of the play as Harris runs by the outlet. If it weren’t for getting tripped up from behind, Harris was off for a good greater run.
Harris himself was extra decisive on this contest, getting downhill in a rush and taking part in behind his pads to complete the run falling ahead. He was closely criticized at occasions this season for being tentative and attempting to shake defender in open house, however Harris performed extra to his strengths on Sunday. Listed below are a few runs the place Harris reveals extra burst from the snap-to-hand off, taking the carry and runs by contact to get what he can.
Together with improved explosiveness and aggressiveness as a runner, Najee Harris additionally demonstrated sooner processing and higher general spatial consciousness to make a lower and decide up further yardage. Watch this play the place Harris takes the hand off and cuts again to the left, moving into the second stage following his blocks as he finishes a profitable run earlier than being introduced down.
This mix of higher general play upfront by the offensive line in addition to improved consciousness by Harris led to the second 12 months again having his greatest efficiency of the season, falling only a yard in need of the century mark. Previous to this recreation, Pittsburgh had solely recorded one rush try over 20 yards the complete season. The Steelers had 4 such runs on Sunday towards the Saints with Harris contributing in a significant method as seen on his season-long 36-yard scamper the place he adopted his blocks to the outlet, however bounced it exterior when he noticed daylight, breaking a sort out as he ran towards the sideline earlier than getting dropped for his greatest run in 2022.
Najee Harris appeared like he was extra in a zone on Sunday towards the Saints, having the ability to rapidly course of blocks and gaps faster as they occurred. This run by Harris completely reveals that talent set on show as Harris takes the hand off and rapidly cuts again off the bottom of LG #69 Kevin Dotson who will get his block on the linebacker. Harris retains working with a head of steam till he meets a number of Saints defenders within the secondary, preventing for additional yardage as #32 Tyrann Mathieu and the remainder of the protection converges to carry him to the bottom.
Najee not solely stepped up as a runner on Sunday, however he additionally had some impactful performs in cross safety. Harris didn’t file a reception towards the Saints, however he supplied Pittsburgh with high quality play when requested to remain in and block like on this rep the place Harris picks up #55 Kaden Elliss as Dotson passes him off, stopping his rush and picks him off to plant him into the grass.
Nonetheless, whereas Harris and the OL did present notable enchancment in Sunday’s win towards New Orleans, there are many examples of the identical points that Pittsburgh has handled within the working recreation displaying up on the tape. Whereas the OL did a greater job getting off the ball and producing a push upfront, there have been nonetheless a number of performs the place no push was created, and Harris was left to attempt to create one thing within the backfield. Listed below are two such examples the place the OL both get hats on our bodies or simply couldn’t get a surge on the LOS leading to stuffed rush makes an attempt.
Harris isn’t with out blame right here both as there have been situations of him making an attempt to work extra east/west than getting downhill at occasions like he has struggled with up to now, missing that burst to get to and thru the outlet earlier than the protection converged on him. Harris additionally dedicated the cardinal sin of placing the soccer on the bottom on Sunday, coughing the soccer up on this fast toss to the left the place Elliss pushes the ball out as Harris tries to chop again to the precise. Fortunately, OT #76 Chukwuma Okorafor will get on the ball and retains possession in favor of Pittsburgh.
Total, it was an improved efficiency by Najee Harris that we wanted to see after hypothesis continued to develop relating to an elevated position for RB Jaylen Warren on the expense of Harris’ snaps and touches. To be truthful, Harris did solely play 60% of the offensive snaps, however he appeared recent in these alternatives as Pittsburgh possessed the soccer for over 39 minutes on Sunday, probably the most time of possession courting again to 2014.
Harris appeared extra decisive as a runner and did a greater job taking part in to his strengths as a giant, bodily again, working downhill with much less nonsense to select up the yardage that was there. The offensive line additionally should be recommended for his or her efficiency as they obtained Harris into the second stage on quite a few events. Nonetheless, there have been nonetheless situations the place the OL didn’t get an sufficient push as 9 of Harris’ 20 rush makes an attempt have been profitable. This confirmed up in his Professional Soccer Focus grade which was the second lowest of the season (54.2) regardless of posting his highest dashing whole on the 12 months.
Regardless, it was a step in the precise course for Harris and the working recreation as an entire as Pittsburgh appears to get again on observe and end 2022 sturdy down the stretch. Continued enchancment and success on the bottom will go a good distance in how Najee Harris’ second season is considered by season’s finish and likewise be a great gauge on the state of the OL and what Pittsburgh ought to do personnel-wise to enhance the unit upfront.
What are your ideas on Najee Harris’ efficiency towards the brand new Orleans Saints? Do you assume he confirmed enchancment as a runner in comparison with the beginning of the season? Did the offensive line do a greater job getting Harris into open house? Please depart your ideas within the feedback part beneath and thanks once more for studying!