Tight end Demetrius Harris returns from suspension, gives Chiefs depth against Steelers

Demetrius Harris suited up beside Travis Kelce on Tuesday afternoon.

He tugged on a firesuit, wriggled into a jacket and strapped on a helmet at the North Kansas City fire department as a part of an event honoring first responders on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

Call it a dress rehearsal for Sunday in Pittsburgh.

No, Harris and Kelce aren’t fighting fires this weekend, but they are going into battle together on the football field for the first time as Harris returns from his one-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse.

“I consider him family,” Kelce said Tuesday. “That’s my guy. To have him back at the office and back out there at practice and especially out on Sunday is just going to be that much fluid and that much better for us as a team.”

Harris, who wasn’t available for interviews this week, played in every preseason game for the Chiefs (1-0), but wasn’t allowed to play in the season-opener after he pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana possession and one count of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia in March. He served two days in jail, fined $500 and ordered to complete two years probation, 80 hours of community service and the NFL’s drug program.

With the bulk of his legal troubles behind him, Harris will make his regular season debut against the Steelers.

That means after carrying just two tight ends on the active roster last week in Kelce and Alex Ellis, the Chiefs will have the full complement of players in the position group.

Against the Chargers, fullback Anthony Sherman did his best tight end impression and helped complete the depleted unit.

“(Anthony Sherman) did a nice job did a nice job of filling on some of the blanks there,” coach Andy Reid said. I don’t want to take anything away from him. Demetrius (Harris) is a good football player. It is another dimension you can add in there with the offense and he is somebody that can do both, run, block and catch the ball. He gives you a little flexibility there.”

Though Kelce only had one catch against the Chargers last week, Harris and the rest of the tight ends figure to be a factor against the Steelers (0-0-1). A year ago, Kelce had four catches for 37 yards on seven targets. Harris didn’t have a catch, but he was targeted twice.

He nearly had a touchdown early in the fourth quarter of the 19-13 loss. He caught a pass from Alex Smith in the end zone and appeared to get two feet down before the ball was knocked away. But because he didn’t maintain control of the ball after hitting the ground, the score was negated.

Often maligned for his frequent drops, Harris can still be a valuable offensive threat with the mismatch his 6-foot-7 frame and athleticism creates. A year ago, Harris recorded 18 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown.

“He has always been an important piece of the puzzle and it’s just good to have him back out there and just getting him in the mix, having him getting in rhythm and in-sync with the quarterback and also having him in-sync and in rhythm with our offense,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said.

“Obviously with him missing last week we kept it moving, but you always want your important pieces around to help you continue the trend. The trend is just an upward motion that we want to continue.”

Brooke Pryor

Brooke Pryor covers the Kansas City Chiefs and NFL for The Star.