Mike Tomlin Puts Najee Harris on Notice With Latest Comments

Najee Harris

Getty The Steelers could bench RB Najee Harris.

The Pittsburgh Steelers could be looking at a change at running back.

As Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the media on Tuesday, November 8, he left the door open on a possible demotion at running back. When asked if he would consider promoting undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren, Tomlin did not shut down the idea.

Via Chris Adamski of Trib Live:

“You know he’s a quality back that’s made some plays,” Tomlin said of Warren. “We’ll keep giving him an opportunity to do so, and maybe he’ll write that script.”

Harris Struggling in Sophomore Campaign

In the event that were to occur, that would obviously mean a demotion for team captain Najee Harris. The 2021 first-round draft pick has struggled this season after the leading the NFL in touches and snaps played for running backs as a rookie last season.

Harris has struggled in his sophomore campaign after turning in an impressive rookie season. The 24-year-old Harris ran for 1,200 yards and added 1,667 yards from scrimmage last season, ranking fourth in the league. However, he’s ranked as one of the most inefficient running backs in the league this season.

He’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and 45.1 rushing yards per game. Among the league’s top 42 rushers, Harris has the lowest yards per carry average.

Meanwhile, Warren has better numbers than Harris in his limited duty of work. The 24-year-old Warren is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 29 attempts and has 7.3 yards per catch in comparison to Harris’ 4.7 yards per reception.

However, as Adamski points out, Warren’s advantage over Harris when it comes to statistics may have more to do with the situation than anything else.

“But Warren’s runs have been more likely to come in third-and-long situations where defenses aren’t defending the run and/or are content allowing a chunk of yardage that still brings up a fourth down,” says Adamski. “Warren similarly has gotten more playing time when games have been out of reach late, again, resulting in a defense that is more indifferent to allowing yardage.”

Harris’ Lack of Production May Be Due to Steelers’ Offense

Harris’ declining production may also be more of reflection of the Steelers’ offense than anything else. Pittsburgh’s offensive unit ranks second-to-last in the league, averaging just 15.0 points per game.

Since rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett took over the starting job versus the Buffalo Bills in Week 5, the Steelers are averaging just 11.5 points per game. In other words, it’s no surprise Harris’ production has dipped when Pittsburgh is in a clear rebuilding mode.

What also doesn’t help matters if the fact that Harris dealt with a lisfranc foot injury during training camp. However, Tomlin isn’t using that as an excuse for his starting back. He also stresses that Pittsburgh has received “awesome contributions” from Warren.

“To what degree, I don’t know,” Tomlin said regarding how much Harris’ early-season injury has affected him. “He’s playing, so obviously he’s healthy enough to play. I’ll let him speak to that. But both guys (Harris and Warren) have been available to us. We’ve gotten some awesome contributions from Jaylen, and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue.”

While Harris may not be at fault for the Steelers’ rough season, it wouldn’t be a shock if Warren were to take more and more carries from the Pro Bowl running back by season’s end.

In fact, Warren might just take the starting job from Harris.

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