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Najee Harris says Steelers' struggles not on coaches: 'Right now we're just playing soft'

All is not well in Pittsburgh.

Certainly not after the Steelers were molly whopped by a relatively young Houston Texans squad in Week 4.

The 30-6 loss was a continuation of Pittsburgh's offensive struggles, which have led to plenty of blame from fans and pundits directed at offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Running back Najee Harris isn't having any of that. It's not about blaming the coaches in his mind. It's about looking in the mirror and toughening up in the meantime.

"The coaches only can coach," Harris said Wednesday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Brian Batko. "At the end of the day, we have to do what we have to do. I see everybody talking about this coaching stuff, about play-calling, but bro, do y'all know how football works? Coaches only can coach. We've got to execute the plays. We're not trying to point the finger at all. This is not the time to do that. It keeps being a conversation that's brought up or things that's talked about so much. It's crazy. We have to execute at the end of the day, no matter who's back there calling the plays. I honestly say that we're not doing it right now. It has nothing to do with coaches. It's just players. We have to play better."

Approaching the first of their two annual slugfests with the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers are in for an AFC North rivalry game in which physicality is a prerequisite. Per Harris' view, the Steelers haven't played like they'll need to against Baltimore over their 2-2 start in which both losses -- to the San Francisco 49ers and Texans -- have seen them give up 30 points, answer with an average of 6.5 and largely get out-muscled.

"Right now we're just playing soft," Harris said.

For a team representing the Steel City, Charmin-esque play is unacceptable.

It complements Harris' Wednesday stance of coaches only being able to do so much. It's the players who must execute and who must play with a fire that's been lacking as a whole for at least two games and on offense for much of the year.

Pittsburgh is 29th offensively in yards and 30th on defense in yards allowed, supporting a claim that the squad is getting pushed around.

Harris has struggled himself, having turned in 210 rushing yards and no touchdowns so far. He did get going in the second half against Houston, rushing nine times for 55 yards, though it was far too little way too late.

When head coach Mike Tomlin responded with a "hell yeah" that change was coming after the loss to the Texans, many believed that meant some coaching shakeups. Tomlin explained Tuesday that wasn't the case and offered up that the squad would put on the pads for Wednesday's practice, likely supporting Harris' claim that they'd gone soft.

Pittsburgh struggled early in 2022 before Tomlin's bunch improved and was in the playoff hunt until the final week of a 9-8 campaign. That, coupled with a promising preseason, built high expectations for 2023. So far, the Steelers have fallen short. Something needs to change, but Harris has made it clear that the players must be the harbingers of that change.

"We can't just keep looking at the coaches as an outlet or whatever [the media] puts out there as outlets," Harris said. "That's just stupid, what y'all are doing, really. We can say what we want, but like I said, players play; coaches coach. We can't just keep looking and pointing fingers. We've got to point at ourselves. It's the man in the mirror, really. This is the NFL. Everybody runs the same damn plays. Everybody disguises differently, but it's just how we're gonna play it. Truthfully, I think that we're just not playing with that edge right now. That's what we need to do better."

On Sunday, the Steelers face a first-place Ravens squad and they'll need to bring an edge and hardness that Harris doesn't believe they've played with. An AFC North donnybrook might be just what Pittsburgh needs.

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