Najee Harris wore a subdued look on his face as he reviewed his first real game as an NFL running back. Harris also displayed a perspective well beyond his 23 years as he discussed the Steelers' 23-16 come-from-behind victory over the Bills.
Similar to his preseason performances, Harris had a roller-coaster game against the Bills. He rushed for just 45 yards on 16 carries and had two disconnects on passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. But despite his struggles, Harris continued to look for openings inside Buffalo's stacked defensive front. Harris' patience paid off, as his 18-yard run in the fourth quarter set up Pittsburgh's go-ahead touchdown. It was the type of run and perseverance the Steelers must have envisioned when they made him the 25th overall pick in the draft.
"I think we all knew as a team that we're still trying to get our identity," Harris told Steelers.com's Missi Matthews. "We knew we were going to start off kind of slow. That's not what we were hoping for. That's just part of building, but at the same token, Buffalo is a really good team.
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"It's a great learning experience, really, because there were a lot of rookies playing. Me, Pat (Freiermuth), we've got Dan (Moore), [Kendrick Green] on the offensive side. It was a good learning experience for us to play against a really good team and finish the way we did. There's a lot of stuff we've got to work on. Me personally, there's a lot of things I can work on. But it's always good to come out with a win."
Patience was something the Steelers' offensive leaders stressed heading into Sunday's game. To the surprise of seemingly no one on Pittsburgh's sideline, the Steelers offense took a while to get going. The unit gained just 54 yards in the first half before putting together four consecutive scoring drives in the second half. Roethlisberger found his rhythm in the second half, as he completed passes to eight different teammates that included his 5-yard touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson.
"We were always calm," Harris said. "You don't hope to [start slow], but at the same time, being realistic, this is a new offense, a lot of new pieces, a lot of rookies, new OC, and Ben's just getting to know his personnel, too. That plays a big factor that people don't understand.
"We just came out with a win. There's a lot of stuff to work on, personally. A lot of stuff to work on."
It was clear that Harris was not terribly pleased with his individual performance on Sunday. But it was also clear that he understands that there is a process involved with having success on football's highest level of competition. Sunday's game was far from perfect, but it was a valuable learning experience for the Steelers' rookie running back.
"There's only some stuff that you can learn as a rookie in the game, and that's what happened today," Harris said. "There were certain pressures that you talk about in meetings but when it's out on the field, they did a completely different thing, so adjusting to that in the game. Learning to just take what you can. The speed of the game, a lot of guys flying over. Safeties playing down a lot, lot of free hats.
"Just a lot of personnel things that a rookie running back can only learn in the game. So hopefully just keep improving everyday."