AFC North: Josh Harris

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor won’t play Saturday night in an AFC wild-card game against the Baltimore Ravens.

 Taylor has missed the past three games because of ankle and shoulder injuries, and starting cornerbacks William Gay and Brice McCain and nickel back Antwon Blake have played well during that span.

Taylor strongly hinted last week that he would not suit up against the Ravens even though he practiced every day last week.

McCain will start in place of Taylor while Troy Polamalu returns from a two-game absence to start at strong safety. Polamalu, an eight-time Pro Bowler, had been out because of a knee injury.

The Steelers are without starting running back Le’Veon Bell, who hyperextended his right knee last Sunday night -- rookie Josh Harris will start in his place -- but the Ravens are also without a key piece on offense.

Left tackle Eugene Monroe will miss his second consecutive game because of an ankle injury and rookie James Hurst will start in his place on a line that has been scrambled by injuries.

With right tackle Rick Wagner on injured reserve, the Ravens will start two rookies (Hurst and right guard John Urschel) and move Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to right tackle.

There are no surprises among the Ravens inactives as Monroe and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot) are joined on the list by tight end Phillip Supernaw, defensive tackles Terrence Cody and Casey Walker, cornerback Chris Greenwood and defensive end Steven Means.

The Steelers healthy scratches are wide receiver Lance Moore, tight end Michael Palmer, guard Chris Hubbard, defensive end Clifton Geathers and quarterback Landry Jones.
PITTSBURGH -- Running back Josh Harris did not sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers until after the start of training camp. The undrafted rookie did not make the 53-man roster until the middle of November.

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Harris
Now he is approaching the opportunity of a lifetime -- and a chance to justify the Steelers' decision not to sign an experienced running back after they released the disgruntled LeGarrette Blount on Nov. 18.

"I can’t say that I’m shocked," Harris said of his ascent, "because I know how hard I work. It’s just having to show it."

He will do that on a national stage if Le'Veon Bell is unable to play against the Ravens because of a hyperextended right knee.

Harris is in line to start Saturday with Bell probably still a couple of first downs shorts of questionable for the 8:15 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

Harris had just nine carries for 16 yards in five regular-season games, but the 5-11, 210-pounder ripped off a 59-yard run last Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

A holding penalty wiped out much of the gain. But the play goes down as one of the Steelers’ most significant 3-yard runs in recent memory given the role Harris might play against the Ravens.

"Josh is ready," said Bell, who did some light running and rode a stationary bike on Wednesday. "I’ve been watching him all year and I know what he’s capable of. You got a little glimpse of him (in) the Bengals game. He’s explosive. He knows all of his assignments. He’s not out there thinking any more. He’s just playing football. He’s only going to get better."

Harris, who will share time at running back with Dri Archer if Bell doesn’t play against the Ravens, said it has been a challenge to stay in the moment as he prepares for Saturday night.

"It’s tough because I just sit at home and say I wish that we could play now," Harris said. "I’m just going to take full advantage of the (preparation) time. I want to be that guy who, when he had his shot he did all he could to help out this team."
PITTSBURGH – An introduction at a Pittsburgh Steelers team meeting turned into running back Ben Tate telling his new teammates that he is willing to do whatever it takes to help them win.

Tate
Tate
The Steelers signed Tate on Tuesday afternoon with Le’Veon Bell’s status for Saturday night uncertain. The fourth-year veteran was released twice this season, including last month by the Cleveland Browns after Tate groused about his diminishing role in the offense.

“He stood up in our team meeting room and said he’s just here to help us win,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Wednesday. “That’s [his] mindset and the attitude and we’re all for it.”

How much Tate can help the Steelers if Bell is unable to play against the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC wild-card game remains to be seen.

Roethlisberger said it is not realistic to expect too much from Tate.

“I don’t know how you could come in in a couple of days and learn a new offense,” Roethlisberger said. “I think if we can put together a specific package, a few runs here, a few passes there, I think he could help us if we need him to.”

That assessment confirms that rookie Josh Harris is in line to start at running back if Bell sits out the third meeting this season between the Ravens and Steelers.

Bell was in the Steelers’ locker room when it was open to the media Wednesday morning and the second-year man did not walk with a noticeable limp.

Bell is expected to address reporters after the Steelers' first practice of the week.

“He said he’s been feeling better and better and we’ll see how the week unfolds,” Steelers Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown said. “I think he’s going to take the proper procedures [to play] because I know what this means to him.”
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has offered scant details about how the running back situation will play out Saturday night when the Baltimore Ravens visit Heinz Field for an AFC wild-card playoff game.

But he did make one thing clear when it comes to rookie scatback Dri Archer blocking outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, whose 16 career sacks of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is the most by any player.

Bell
“If I want him to block Suggs then I’m stupid,” Tomlin said.

Beyond Tomlin using a player other than the 5-8, 173-pound Archer to pass protect it is anyone’s guess how the eighth-year coach will employ his running backs against the Ravens.

Le'Veon Bell will start and play extensively if he is healthy enough after hyperextending his right knee last Sunday night.

But Tomlin is preparing for every other scenario in large part because if Bell if able to play there won’t be much division of labor in the backfield.

If Bell doesn’t play -- and the odds of that are pretty high -- Tomlin will have to etch out the running back roles among a pair of rookies, a free agent that the Steelers signed Tuesday afternoon and Will Johnson, a fullback who has lined up more at tight end this season.

Josh Harris, whom the Steelers signed off their practice squad last month, will likely start if Bell does not play against the Ravens, and the speedy Archer will also receive more snaps.

Tomlin said Ben Tate will also be in the mix even though the fourth-year veteran will only practice with the Steelers three times before Saturday night.

Tate, who was released by the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings this season, will learn as much of the offense as he can over the next three days. Tomlin said the abbreviated time for Tate to absorb the offense won’t preclude him from playing significant snaps against the Ravens since he is in football shape.

Johnson could also see playing time as a running back if Bell doesn’t play, Tomlin said.

“When you’re talking about replacing an impact guy like [Bell] it’s not a one-man job,” the eighth-year coach said. “It never is. It’s a multiple-man job and it might be a multiple-man job across positions. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to play with a back on third down. It may mean that we play with an additional wideout or an additional tight end. We’re going to turn over all the stones to make sure that we’re prepared to replace his significance.”

As for Bell's chances of playing Saturday night, Tomlin said, “We’re going to do what’s right and we’re not going to be swayed by circumstance.”
PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are meeting with Ben Tate on Tuesday and are expected to sign the veteran running back, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Tate
Tate
The Steelers had no interest in Tate in November after they released LeGarrette Blount because they had already committed to playing Le'Veon Bell almost every snap -- and because Tate had just been released by the Cleveland Browns because of unhappiness with his playing time.

Bell's status is a Primanti Brothers sandwich-sized question mark after the AFC's leading rusher hyperextended his knee Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That is why Tate is in Pittsburgh and probably relocating here, if only temporarily. How much Tate can help the Steelers -- if they sign him -- remains to be seen.

Bell
The fourth-year veteran has less than a week to learn the offense and will get all of three practices with his new teammates if the Steelers sign Tate.

The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder does have 2,363 career rushing yards -- 2,307 more than the two current running backs on the Steelers' 53-man roster not named Bell -- and he scored a pair of touchdowns in Cleveland's 31-10 win over Pittsburgh in October.

Tate had most recently been with the Minnesota Vikings, and the fifth-year player can at least provide a veteran presence in the backfield if Bell is unable to play Saturday night against the visiting Baltimore Ravens.

Even if Bell is able to play in Saturday's prime-time AFC wild-card game -- and that is a big if for reasons ranging from pain tolerance to possible long-term risks of bringing the second-year man back so soon from a knee injury -- the Steelers will have to manage Bell's snaps.

If the Steelers hold Bell out of their third meeting this season with the Ravens, Josh Harris figures to get the majority of the carries.

The 5-11, 210-pounder opened eyes Sunday night when he ripped off a 59-yard run against the Bengals after Bell got hurt. A holding penalty wiped out the big run, but it proved to be a significant play, as Harris pointed out after the Steelers' 27-17 win against the Bengals.

"That's on tape," said Harris, who signed with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie in late July. "[The coaches] see that, 'OK, we can put him in and he can do things like that.'"

Both Harris and Dri Archer, a third-round pick who has played sparingly, said they are confident they can get the job done at running back if Bell is unable to play Saturday.

"I've had the privilege to sit behind a back who is one of the best backs in this league," said Harris, who has rushed for 16 yards on nine carries. "I know how hard I work, and being able to sit behind a guy who also works hard and see how he does things will also help me out."
PITTSBURGH – There is a good chance the Pittsburgh Steelers will go into their AFC wild-card game Saturday night with rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer as their running backs and fullback Will Johnson, who has played more as a tight end this season, also available for duty.

Bell
Not that I would bet against Le'Veon Bell to play against the Baltimore Ravens.

The AFC’s leading rusher takes an incredible amount of pride in his durability -- Bell has played in 29 consecutive games -- and had never been hurt, in high school or college, before missing the first three games of his rookie season because of a mid-foot sprain.

The second-year man will do everything he can to play against the Ravens, which means the Steelers might have to protect Bell from himself.

Even if Bell doesn’t risk more serious injury to his right knee by playing against the Ravens, it makes little sense for the Steelers to play the freshly-minted Pro Bowl running back -- in what promises to be a hard-hitting game -- if it only further weakens him.

Winning a division title as well as game in the playoffs is fine for most franchises. It is not for one that has won six Lombardi Trophies, which is why the Steelers have to take a bigger-picture approach to Bell's injury.

They can’t make a legitimate run at a Super Bowl title without a healthy Bell, so why not rest him for a week and put the ball in quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s hands?

Roethlisberger strafed the Ravens’ secondary for 340 passing yards and six touchdowns the most recent time the AFC North rivals played at Heinz Field. The Ravens allowed 249 passing yards per game in the regular season, and no team has had an answer for Antonio Brown, who has had one of the finest seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history.

Roethlisberger-to-Brown in front of a charged home crowd, with a defense that has made significant improvement in the second half of the season? It might not be that simple, as far as the Steelers advancing past the wild-card round for the first time since 2010.

But the Steelers have to be tempted to try that formula and bring Bell back the following week, if they beat the Ravens, in Denver.
CINCINNATI -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without two starters today against the Cincinnati Bengals and rookie running back Dri Archer is among the five players who are healthy scratches for the 1 p.m. ET game.

Archer
Harrison
Harrison
Outside linebacker James Harrison will miss his first game since re-signing with the Steelers in September because of a knee injury. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his second consecutive game because of ankle and knee injuries.

Archer is the surprise on the Steelers’ seven-man inactives list as Pittsburgh will go with Josh Harris, who has yet to carry the ball in an NFL regular-season game, and fullback Will Johnson behind starting running back Le’Veon Bell.

Archer practiced all week and was not listed on the Steelers' final injury report last week. Not dressing Sunday is another step back for the third-round draft pick who lost his job as the primary kickoff returner earlier this season and has been a non-factor on offense.

Joining Archer as healthy scratches for the Steelers are wide receiver Justin Brown, cornerback B.W. Webb, defensive end Clifton Geathers and quarterback Landry Jones.

Linebacker Ryan Shazier will return to action after missing the last three games because of a high-ankle sprain. Nose tackle Steve McLendon is back after missing the last two games because of a bad shoulder.

Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones will play in his first game since dislocating his right wrist on Sept. 21 in a win at Carolina.
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pointed out a fact about what has to be the youngest backfield in the NFL.

Le'Veon Bell, who is second in the NFL with 951 rushing yards, is actually younger than his two understudies.

Bell is 22 while rookies Dri Archer and Josh Harris are each 23 years old.

“We’ve got a young position group but you look around football and young backs impact games in a significant way and a positive way week in and week out,” Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference.

That trend is why Tomlin said he is “not reluctant at all” to lean more on Archer, who has eight NFL carries, and Harris, who has yet to play in an NFL game, as the Steelers move forward without LeGarrette Blount.

“Just because Dri has a limited number of carries and Josh has none doesn’t mean they can’t be significant contributors to our efforts not only this week but moving forward. And I know both guys work with that in mind and I don’t think either guy is lacking confidence,” Tomlin said. “I don’t think the group that works with them is lacking confidence in either guy.”

Bell certainly isn’t, even though the 5-foot-8, 173-pound Archer has yet to make a significant impact despite possessing world-class speed. Archer has rushed for 41 yards on eight carries and caught five passes for 4 yards.

“A lot of smaller guys just want to depend on their speed all of the time and run outside; he’s a guy that likes running in between the tackles,” Bell said of Archer. “I won’t say he’s a guy who will get 30 carries a game -- his frame won’t hold that -- but he’s definitely a running back. He’s a slasher, a one-cut go guy and uses his speed when he needs to.”

Bell also offered a scouting report on Harris, whom the Steelers promoted from the practice squad last Tuesday after waiving Blount.

“Josh is going to surprise a lot of people because he’s a thicker-type of guy and a lot of people don’t really understand how fast he is and he’s a guy that’s still learning,” Bell said. “He’s going to be ready when his time [comes].”
PITTSBURGH -- Will Johnson said he will be ready if the Steelers need him to do more than just block tonight against the Ravens.

Johnson
Johnson, a fullback/tight end, will serve as the Steelers’ No. 3 running back at M&T Bank Stadium with rookie Dri Archer out because of a sprained ankle.

Johnson played a little bit of running back in the Steelers’ final preseason game, and he carried the ball one time for 6 yards.

Johnson played tailback and defensive back in high school.

“It feels natural," the 6-foot-2, 238-pounder said of playing running back. "If they need me in an emergency situation, I could do it.”

The Steelers could sign rookie Josh Harris from the practice squad to also provide depth behind Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. My guess, however, is that the Steelers are comfortable with Johnson as their No. 3 running back and won’t add Harris to the 53-man roster.

In addition to Archer, wide receiver Lance Moore won’t play against the Ravens because of a groin injury. Here is my projection of the five healthy players who will be deactivated by the Steelers for the 8:30 p.m. ET game at M&T Bank Stadium:
  • WR Martavis Bryant: The rookie fourth-round pick is listed as probable after coming back from a shoulder injury, but Darrius Heyward-Bey gets the nod over Bryant because the latter plays special teams.
  • G Chris Hubbard: I have the Steelers dressing eight offensive linemen with rookie Wesley Johnson getting the last spot on the game day roster because of his versatility. The last time the Steelers played at Baltimore they barely had enough healthy offensive linemen to finish the game. In a game as physical as this one it will be wise for the Steelers to have an extra offensive lineman active.
  • CB D.W. Webb: He only played a few snaps on special teams against the Browns and will lose his spot to cornerback Brice McCain unless McCain has a setback with his groin.
  • NT Daniel McCullers: Starting nose tackle Steve McLendon is fine after missing some time in the season opener because of a stinger.
  • QB Landry Jones: Has yet to dress for an NFL game and that won’t change unless there is an injury at quarterback.

Steelers' Dri Archer has sprained ankle

September, 8, 2014
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PITTSBURGH – The Steelers emerged from their 30-27 win over the Browns on Sunday in relatively good shape from an injury standpoint.

Rookie running back Dri Archer sustained a sprained ankle and safety Shamarko Thomas suffered a sprained ankle/Achilles tendon, coach Mike Tomlin said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Archer
Both are questionable for the Steelers’ Thursday night game at Baltimore.

Also questionable for the 8:25 ET game at M&T Bank Stadium are wide receivers Lance Moore (groin) and Martavis Bryant (shoulder) and cornerback Brice McCain (groin).

Moore, Bryant and McCain did not play against the Browns because of their respective injuries, and they have a short week to get healthy enough to suit up against the Ravens.

Archer’s injury -- and the quick turnaround he faces -- works against the third-round pick playing in his first Steelers-Ravens game.

Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount are the only other running backs on the roster, but the Steelers would not necessarily have to promote rookie Josh Harris if Archer does not play Thursday night.

Fullback Will Johnson can play running back if needed. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said of Johnson, “You have another big back that knows how to run with the football a little bit.”
Most significant move: The Steelers cut a pair of players who appeared in games for them last season. In the process, their plans along the defensive line came more into focus. The team released defensive end Brian Arnfelt, who appeared in two games at the end of last season, and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo, who played in four games in 2013. Josh Mauro, an undrafted rookie, has the edge for the last defensive spot if the Steelers keep seven defensive linemen, and rookie nose tackle Daniel McCullers, a sixth-round pick, is almost sure to stick on the 53-man roster. Defensive end Ethan Hemer may be the odd man out with defensive end Nick Williams and nose tackle Roy Philon likely grabbing spots on the practice squad. Arnfelt entered training camp with a good chance at making the team, but the second-year man fell out of favor with the coaches and Mauro passed him at defensive end. Williams still has a chance to unseat Mauro if he plays well in the Steelers’ final preseason game Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Running back shuffle: The Steelers are down to five running backs after releasing three at that position Tuesday, including Tauren Poole, who got a long look from the coaches. A roster spot is there for the taking if either Josh Harris or Stephen Houston seizes the final opportunity against the Panthers. The Steelers may go with three running backs and fullback Will Johnson even given the uncertain status of starter Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount. Coach Mike Tomlin has said the team is considering all options as far as punishment following their arrest on marijuana possession charges. (Bell has also been charged with driving under the influence.) That includes a suspension -- and the Steelers can maneuver around the collective bargaining agreement by simply deactivating Bell, Blount or both for the Sept. 7 season opener against the Browns. I don’t expect the Steelers to sit either for an entire game, and a suspension from the NFL wouldn’t come until next season. That means Harris or Houston will have to play his way on to the 53-man roster, or the two could be vying for a spot on the practice squad. The Steelers will also keep an eye on the waiver wire to see which running backs become available at the end of the week.

Steelers’ moves: Arnfelt, S Jordan Dangerfield, C Chris Elkins, Fangupo, WR C.J. Goodwin, RB Jordan Hall, LS Luke Ingram, RB Miguel Maysonet, OT Emmanuel McCray, WR Kashif Moore, Poole, CB Devin Smith, OLB Vic So’oto, CB Lew Toler, TE Eric Waters

Steelers Camp Report: Day 7

August, 2, 2014
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LATROBE, Pa. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Pittsburgh Steelers training camp:
  • The offense and defense battled to a draw in one of the most anticipated drills of training camp. The offense scored three touchdowns in six attempts from the 1-yard line in the goal-line drill. Ben Roethlisberger threw an easy touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth off play-action to start the drill. The play call didn’t sit well with the defense and might have contributed to cornerback Ike Taylor and LeGarrette Blount later jawing at each other from across the field. Tauren Poole and Josh Harris each scored on 1-yard runs, but the defense held its own, stopping three runs other short of the end zone. Inside linebacker Vince Williams blew up Poole short of the end zone, putting an exclamation on an impressive day. Williams had delivered a monster hit earlier in practice when he obliterated running back Miguel Maysonet in an 11-on-11 drill.
  • Rookie wide receiver Martavis Bryant had his best practice of training camp. The fourth-round draft pick made a handful of difficult catches. None were more impressive than when Bryant twisted his body while on the run to catch a Bruce Gradkowski pass that had sailed behind the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Bryant in the end zone. “He’s a big, so we expect him to consistently make big-guy plays,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said of Bryant. "I’m interested in him developing a complete game.”
  • Tempers flared again a day after the first fight of training camp broke out and nearly turned into a brawl. Outside linebacker Chris Carter and left tackle Kelvin Beachum had to be separated at the end of one play during a red-zone drill. Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey and nose tackle Hebron Fangupo went at it during goal-line drills and punches were thrown before the two were separated.
  • Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed his second consecutive practice after sustaining a concussion last Thursday and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt remains out with groin tightness. Tomlin gave tight end Heath Miller and nose tackle Steve McLendon the day off in part so he could look at some of the younger players at those positions. Safety Mike Mitchell did some work, Tomlin said, and he might be close to returning. Mitchell, who signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Steelers in March, has been on the physically unable to perform list since reporting to camp with a groin injury.
  • Rookie running back Dri Archer showcased his speed in one-on-one passing drills. Matched up several times against Lawrence Timmons, Archer made an over-the-shoulder catch after separating from Timmons on a wheel route. Earlier in the drill, Archer caught a pass in front of Timmons, stopped and then ran right past him.
  • The Steelers practice Sunday and Monday from 2:55 to 5:30 p.m. ET. The players are off on Tuesday and practice will resume on Wednesday.

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