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Steelers All-22: The reason why Najee Harris can’t run the ball

Najee Harris shoulders a lot of blame, but the offensive line isn’t doing him any favors.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Las Vegas Raiders Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ run game, or lack thereof, has been a talking point going on three seasons now. While Najee Harris has faced some rightful criticism, he’s also not been dealt a great hand when it comes to the guys in charge of opening lanes for him. Today, we look at the Steelers’ run blocking against the Raiders, which highlights the biggest problem with the subpar ground attack.

Here, Dan Moore goes inside to double team Bilal Nichols. This leaves Pat Freiermuth to handle Divine Deablo and Darnell Washington to block Maxx Crosby. The only problem is no one is left to take care of Marcus Epps, who penetrates the gap, and Harris has to bust outside. He manages to get five yards out of the play, but it could have gone for much more had Epps not been able to disrupt the play.

This is the second drive. Look at all that clutter in the middle. They try to go inside zone, and Harris has to bounce around and find a different hole to get four yards.

There wasn’t a numbers disadvantage here. There are seven Raiders in the box going toward the ball, and there are seven Steelers trying to create room. Mason Cole and James Daniels double team John Jenkins, but they don’t move him. Jerry Tillery comes off the edge untouched because Dan Moore is chipping inside, and they rely on Connor Heyward to pull across and get a piece of him, and Tillery effortlessly throws him aside. Every lane is clogged and the Steelers don’t move any bodies so the run goes nowhere.

Now this was good. Isaac Seumalo chips inside and then breaks to the second level to clear a hole. Harris runs through it and makes a nice move for nine yards.

This wasn’t the best hole, but good job of Jaylen Warren for hopping through to get a modest gain.

Here, the Raiders show an eight-man box- the Steelers only have seven people to counter. Naturally, there is a Raiders defender who comes off the edge untouched and makes the play.

This is a good job by Jaylen Warren. They want to run that play between James Daniels and Mason Cole. Warren sees that linebacker creeping over, and immediately hops into open space on the right side.

I mean what was that? Epps comes flying in untouched and Harris loses four. Another numbers game where the Raiders stack the box with more guys than the Steelers can answer for. You’d like to see an audible out of guaranteed lost yards.

We’ll end on a positive note. This was a good job by Seumalo to clear that lane for Harris to get a big gain.

For every positive play the Steelers had in the run game, there were multiple bad ones. And that’s been the theme of the season thus far. It’s hard to get yards when there is nowhere to run. The offensive line needs to get better at moving bodies. Far too often they just get stood up and have lanes clogged, and go up against heavy boxes outnumbered. Harris isn’t without fault when it comes to his lack of production, but he certainly isn’t the main reason for the lack of explosiveness and consistency in the run game.