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Former Alabama sensation Najee Harris is expected to start tonight at running back for Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame Game. Head coach Mike Tomlin has previously said that the first preseason game will consist of backups and players trying to make the roster, but is making a small exception for Harris.
“He’s a rookie,” Tomlin said. “He needs the process of game preparation and then ultimately playing. We got four opportunities for him to do that. We’re going to make sure that he participates in all four of those processes.
“We’ll determine how much he plays, but the preparation process, the process of readying yourself to play, is something that I believe all those young guys need regardless of their potential roles for us once the regular season starts. I just want to get them to as many stadiums and watch them prepare and watch them establish routines that make them comfortable, that maximize their ability in a game-like setting, so I’m excited about watching him do that for the first time. I think he’s going to learn and grow from it aside from the actual play in the game, just the process leading up to play.”
To his credit, Harris has already proven himself a willing worker and student of the game. By all accounts, his appetite for information has been relentless, and his attitude has been superb thus far.
“He constantly wants to get better,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “He doesn’t have this attitude that he knows it all or he’s a superstar or anything like that. You grab him, you pull him aside, you talk to him about something, and he understands that you’re trying to help him and that he can do the little things to get better.”
Mike Tomlin agrees: “He’s a workaholic. I think he’s showing those traits, which is very good obviously, in terms of him being ready to do the things that we’re going to need him to do for us in 2021. He’s tireless. He’s tireless out here, he’s tireless in the classroom setting, and I think all of that helps him and us.”
The Steelers used a coveted first round draft pick on the former All-American, which shows just how highly they thought of him, despite an era of constant turnover at the position. At Alabama, Harris broke the SEC record for single-season touchdowns and tied the league record for career touchdowns on his way to the Doak Walker Award, presented annually to the nation’s best running back.
The Hall of Fame Game kicks off tonight at 8 ET/7 CT on FOX, with the Steelers taking on the Cowboys.