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Mike Tomlin and the Steelers find themselves in an awkward position with Najee Harris’ injury

The Pittsburgh Steelers said he had his foot stepped on, Harris said something different Sunday.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers have wrapped up their 2022 NFL Preseason with a 3-0 record after beating the Detroit Lions 19-9 at Acrisure Stadium Sunday. After the game there were a lot of storylines, but one which stood out was based around Najee Harris’ injury which had him out of training camp practices for roughly four weeks.

On the Steelers’ first day of padded practice, Harris reportedly had his foot stepped on during a team drill. Mike Tomlin had this to say following practice on Monday, August 1st:

“Not a lot of significant news regarding health-related things. Najee [Harris] wasn’t able to finish; somebody stepped on his foot, but it shouldn’t be a major deal.”

Reporters and fans took the coach at his word, and Harris missed the rest of the practices at Saint Vincent College, and some even when camp broke and the team returned to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the south side of Pittsburgh.

Harris returned to the field for the first time this preseason Sunday, and registered 4 carries for 10 yards, along with 3 receptions on 3 targets for 11 yards. After the game, Harris wasn’t just unpleased with his performance, but also told reporters they had his injury all wrong.

According to Harris, his foot wasn’t stepped on, but it was a sprained Lisfranc injury which sidelined him the past several weeks.

This from Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

When asked how he viewed his performance vs. the Lions, here is what Harris said in the video above:

“Kind of rusty a little bit, been down for about four weeks. Just to give everybody an update, I never did get my foot stepped on, I had a sprained Lisfranc. That’s why I was out for the majority of camp. So, to get back in there and go through the motions, and stuff like that, I felt really rusty.”

The biggest aspect of the aforementioned quote was obviously Harris’ admitting his actual injury. Most fans saw this as a bold-faced lie by Mike Tomlin, but fans should also realize there is no league policy on announcing injuries to the media during training camp or the preseason. During the regular season is when injury reports must be reported and tracked, or punishments could ensue.

Pittsburgh, and by proxy Tomlin, have been on the wrong end of these allegations before. It was after the 2016 AFC Championship game when Le’Veon Bell admitted he had a groin injury which had lingered for the majority of the season, yet he was never on any injury report.

Some viewed this as the injury not being severe, while others viewed it as Tomlin trying to skirt the rules and gain a competitive advantage by not letting the opponent know of the injury.

In this situation, Tomlin broke no rules by the league, even if he knew the extent of the injury at the time. He doesn’t have to update the injury throughout camp, and there is the possibility he didn’t know the true nature of the injury when he met with media just minutes following practice.

Many fans are already wondering if he is doing the same with Diontae Johnson’s shoulder injury and T.J. Watt’s knee, but only time will tell if this is the case. In the meantime, I’m sure Tomlin will be having a discussion with his star running back in regards to talking about injuries with reporters. Throughout the years it has become painfully clear the team’s stance on this type of talk. They don’t want it being discussed. You’ll hear veterans say, “You’ll have to talk to Coach T about injuries.” and nothing more.

Harris might have to learn this lesson the hard way.

In the meantime, plenty of fans are wondering what is going on with this situation as the team prepares for the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 of the regular season.