While the Steelers once again struggled to kickstart their run game in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, rookie running back Najee Harris did have a productive day through the air.
Harris caught 14 passes for 102 yards on the day, setting a new Steelers record for the most receptions in a game by a running back. It is also tied for the third-highest total for a single game in franchise history.
“(They were), taking away a lot of the deep stuff so he’s going to be open underneath,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “I thought he did well. I don’t remember watching a lot of his college tape to know how much they asked him to catch out of the backfield. I don’t believe it was a lot. He’s learning and growing on the urgency out of the backfield and how fast the ball can get to him, and then how fast they can close on him when he gets the ball.”
Harris only mustered 40 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The record for a Pittsburgh running back had previously been held by Jaylen Samuels, who caught 13 passes against the Indianapolis Colts in 2019.
The top spot is held by former Steelers wideout Antonio Brown, who caught 17 passes against the then Oakland Raiders in 2017. He also owns second place in the record book, as he totaled 16 receptions versus the Denver Broncos in 2014. Brown also caught 14 passes twice.
Harris didn’t seem to take much solace in the strong statistical performance in a losing effort, with his team posting a losing record for the first time since before college.
“It just so happened that I caught a lot of checkdowns,” he said. “That’s really what it was. There wasn’t a design pass for me, just checkdowns.”