Josh Harris Is Pittsburgh Steelers' Best RB Option in Wild Card Game vs. Ravens

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2015

FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers running back Josh Harris (40) runs away from Carolina Panthers defensive back Colin Jones (42) in the fourth quarter of a NFL preseason football game in Pittsburgh. While quarterbacks and other big-name, high-salaried players get most of the attention, unlikely heroes often emerge in the playoffs to help their team win. Philly Brown, Josh Harris and Cole Beasley are among the lesser-known players who could step up this wild-card weekend. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)
Don Wright/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers enter Saturday's AFC Wild Card Round clash with the Baltimore Ravens looking for answers at running back, but undrafted rookie Josh Harris has the tools necessary to take the reins.

All-Pro selection Le'Veon Bell was an absolute workhorse for the Steelers during the regular season. He accounted for well over 2,000 total yards and 11 touchdowns; however, he will not be available for the playoff opener due to a hyperextended knee, according to Around The NFL:

Around The NFL @AroundTheNFL

Le'Veon Bell ruled out with hyperextended knee. Josh Harris will lead committee attack vs. Ravens http://t.co/pC6t833Fd2

The Steelers are short in terms of alternative options. They released LeGarrette Blount in November, which leaves them with a pair of rookies in Harris and Dri Archer, along with the recently signed Ben Tate.

While Tate is easily the most accomplished of that trio, he has had very little time to learn the offense. Archer is dynamic, but he is not an every-down back. That essentially leaves Harris by default.

Harris' numbers are underwhelming, as he has just nine carries for 16 yards this season, although there is reason to believe that he could be a productive player.

The former Wake Forest star showed flashes of that last week against the Cincinnati Bengals when he busted a 59-yard run, but it was called back on a holding penalty, per David Todd of 970 ESPN:

David Todd @DavidMTodd

And as expected Josh Harris goes for 59 on first carry. Called back for holding on Foster. Legit call. #Steelers

That play doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but Harris is hopeful that he showed what he is capable of regardless of the penalty, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala:

Aditi Kinkhabwala @AKinkhabwala

Even though that long run was called back, Steelers backup RB Josh Harris said he hopes he proved to his teammates he can spell LeVeon Bell

One person who believes in Harris' ability to step up is the man he is replacing—Bell. Per The Beaver County Times (subscription required; h/t Marc Sessler of NFL.com), Bell has kept a close eye on his understudy.

"Josh is a very good player," Bell said. "I've been watching him all year. I know what he's capable of. You got a little glimpse of it in the Bengals game. I was happy to see he broke a long run. You saw the speed a little bit. He's definitely ready."

Although head coach Mike Tomlin doesn't exactly exude confidence regarding Harris like Bell does, he seems to like that Harris is ready to step up, according to Kinkhabwala:

Aditi Kinkhabwala @AKinkhabwala

Awesome. Mike Tomlin's first response when asked about RB Josh Harris' best assets: "He's willing and available." #Steelers

The Steelers are a pass-heavy team, as evidenced by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger nearly topping 5,000 yards through the air this season. They are also facing Baltimore's No. 4 rush defense, so the game will largely hinge on Big Ben's arm.

Pittsburgh needs to at least present the threat of the running game, though, and at a compact 5'11" and 210 pounds with promising speed, Harris can do that.

The Steelers would be wise to mix in Archer as a change of pace and Tate in certain situations as well, but Harris should be their bell-cow back for most of Saturday's game.

He obviously isn't on the same level as Bell, but he has the tools necessary to give the Steelers a competent running game.

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