Najee Harris Poised to Set New Steelers Rookie Record

Najee Harris

Getty Images Steelers running back Najee Harris on November 14, 2021.

On Sunday night the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing a Los Angeles Chargers team that has the worst rushing defense in the NFL, one that has already allowed 1,396 rushing yards and an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

As such, there’s an excellent chance that Steelers running back Najee Harris is going to set a new franchise rookie record. Per Field Yates, NFL Insider for ESPN, Harris needs just 37 yards from scrimmage to become the first rookie in team history with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in his first 10 games.

Of course, Harris could just as easily set the new benchmark by catching a handful of passes, as he already has 44 receptions this season for 317 yards and two touchdowns.

In fact, Harris is the first NFL running back to record two 100-yard rushing games and a 100-yard receiving game since Washington’s Roy Helu Jr. in 2011, as per the Steelers’ Week 11 game release. In his first nine games, Harris has rushed for 646 yards and four touchdowns, with an average of 3.7 yards per carry.

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Ben Roethlisberger: No Practice, No Problem?

The last time Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger started a game without participating in any of the team’s practices came almost exactly a year ago. Things went so well that Big Ben half-jokingly lobbied Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin to get the “next week off too.” In that instance, Roethlisberger spent five days (Tuesday-Saturday) on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list, then went out to win AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 18th time in his Hall of Fame career.

Specifically, he completed 27 of 46 passes for 333 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions (passer rating 110.1) in a 36-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Of course, there were some significant differences between this week’s circumstances and last year’s scenario. First and foremost, Roethlisberger tested positive for COVID-19 this week, whereas last year he was on the list as a “high-risk contact” of (now retired) tight end Vance McDonald. Also, last year’s game was at home against a lowly Bengals team, while he will be playing on Sunday after a cross-country flight, going against a 5-4 Chargers club that features one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL in Justin Herbert. Also, Roethlisberger did participate in the team’s Saturday walkthrough pre-Bengals, which he did not do on Saturday November 20.

But at least there’s a history of Roethlisberger performing well under less-than-ideal circumstances. That includes a November 2015 home game when a hobbled Big Ben (sprained foot) came on in relief of an injured Landry Jones to clobber Johnny Manziel and the Browns, 30-9.

‘Duck’ Hodges Started Pittsburgh’s Last Road Game Against the Chargers

The last time the Steelers played at the Los Angeles Chargers was in 2019, when third-stringer Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges was the starter. These days, Hodges is playing for the Ottawa Redblacks in the CFL, with his team recently completing a 3-11 season, finishing in last place in the league’s East Division. Remarkably, Roethlisberger hasn’t played a road game against the Chargers since 2006, Bill Cowher’s last season as head coach, when the Steelers lost a 23-13 decision. As for Hodges, he is paying tribute to Roethlisberger by wearing No. 7 in the CFL.

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