Najee Harris recently suffered an abdominal injury and I can’t think of a single reason the Pittsburgh Steelers should force him to suit up this week.
There comes a time when a team’s back is against the wall and players need to play through bumps and bruises in order to achieve the ultimate goal: to win. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a 4-7 football team. One loss the rest of the way could doom their 2022 season. Regardless of their circumstances, I can’t think of a good enough reason to play running back, Najee Harris, this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
Halfway through Pittsburgh’s game against the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, Harris trotted off the field in some obvious pain. It was quickly determined that he had suffered an abdominal injury and that he would not return.
Now we are just a few days removed from Najee suffering an injury, and he has already missed practice to begin the week. Even entering yet another must-win game, there’s no reason to bring him back this week.
Jaylen Warren is likely back
After only playing 3 offensive snaps since Week 10, Jaylen Warren is likely to return to the field this week against the Falcons. Warren has been Pittsburgh’s most efficient running back all season thanks to his impressive combination of decisiveness and burst. His ability to shed arm tackles and not lose speed makes him one of the more efficient backs in the league this year (though he has only logged 38 carries on the season so far).
I’ve been saying for weeks that Warren is primed for a bigger role. He averages 5.0 yards per carry and 8.6 yards per reception. He needs to see a bigger piece of the pie in Pittsburgh’s offense, and with Najee banged up, this is the perfect week to do just that.
Snell and McFarland outperformed expectations
It’s funny how good every running back can look when the offensive line is creating room on the ground. On Monday night against the Colts, both Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland saw their first carries of the season (McFarland had to be brought up from the practice squad with Warren out). The backups didn’t disappoint either.
Snell and McFarland combined for 94 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries (5.2 per carry). While nobody is fooled into believing that they are spectacular options, they showed that they are at least capable of serving as part of a committee approach.
Steelers shouldn’t risk Najee’s health
I know that — given the circumstances — this is usually the time when players suck it up and play through injuries, as long as they are cleared medically. However, even if Najee Harris gets the green light this Sunday, the Steelers should shut him down.
Harris earned just 35 yards on 10 carries against the Colts before his night was over. While I still don’t agree with their decision to take him with the 24th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, he’s still a first-round pick and they need to do what they can to increase his longevity.
Perhaps the biggest factor is that Najee has been the least efficient runner on the team this year, and it really shouldn’t be a big loss if the Steelers chose to make him one of the inactives this Sunday against the Falcons.