ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — There were seven players that took all 58 offensive snaps for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their season-opening comeback win over the Buffalo Bills.
Those were the five starting offensive linemen, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and rookie running back Najee Harris.
Harris, one of five rookies in the Steelers starting lineup and four on offense, had just a so-so NFL debut, statistically.
The Steelers’ first-round pick out of Alabama averaged 2.8 yards per carry for 45 yards on 16 attempts and caught one of three passing targets or a four-yard gain.
“There’s a lot I need to work on,” Harris said after the game. “There’s some stuff that you can only learn as a rookie in the game. There was certain pressures that we talked about in meetings, but when it’s out on the field, they did a completely different thing. Adjusting to that in the game. Learning to take what you can at the same time, too.
“The speed of the game, a lot of guys flying over. The safeties were playing down a lot. A lot of free hats. There’s a lot of personnel things that a rookie running back can only learn in the game. Hopefully, I just keep improving every day.”
Harris’ newness was compounding on the Steelers offense by the same factor for those blocking for him: namely, fellow rookies left tackle Dan Moore Jr, center Kendrick Green and tight end Pat Freiermuth. Harris said he felt the offense grew as the game went on and that can be a learning experience
“It’s a great learning experience, really, because there’s a lot of rookies playing: me, Pat, Dan, KG, on the offensive side,” Harris said. “It was a good learning experience for us to play against a really good team and finish the way we did.”
Ben Roethlisberger said coming into the game that there would probably be some growing pains, and Harris said there certainly were some in a first half that saw the team gain just 54 yards while failing to score.
“You don’t hope for it to be (like that), but at the same time, you’re being realistic,” Harris said. “This is a new offense. A lot of new pieces. Like I said, a lot of rookies, a new OC and Ben has to get to know his personnel, too.”
The hope is that with the first one out of the way, the Steelers offense will look more like the second-half version than the first-half version going forward.
“It wasn’t looking pretty early,” Roethlisberger said. “But we persevered, we fought through it, and we found a way to win.”
For Week 1 on the road against one of the best teams in the AFC, winning with a somewhat ugly offensive performance was more than good enough for the Steelers.
“We’re not worried about style points,” head coach Mike Tomlin said.