Steelers vs Titans Film Review: James Harrison

As I detailed yesterday morning, James Harrison found himself in the starting lineup at right outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night for the first time since 2012, playing about three quarters of the snaps at the expense of Arthur Moats, and I believe that is how he will be finishing up the 2014, and likely his career.

It’s been a long time coming since he was re-signed back in late September to provide depth at outside linebacker following the long-term injury to starter Jarvis Jones, about whom the Steelers are “cautiously optimistic” that he will play again this season.

But really, have they missed him with Harrison back out there, who, by the way, is currently leading the team—tied with Cameron Heyward—in sacks with four, despite spending most of the season logging around 50 percent of the defensive snaps or less?

Harrison quite simply has been playing better than anybody could have reasonably expected him to, not just at his age and health, but also coming out of retirement. It took him a few weeks to play himself back into shape, but there are plenty of moments in which he looks like the Harrison of old out there.

Some of those moments came at the expense of the Tennessee Titans on Monday night, particularly in the running game, as Bishop Sankey learned above on the second defensive snap of the game.

The Titans attempted to counter Harrison with Richard Gordon, who spent a couple months with the Steelers last year due to injuries at the position, despite never seeing the field. This might be why. Harrison easily stacked and shed to make the tackle after a short gain on first down.

It was Harrison on the run stop again two plays later, this time providing backside support on a run off the right end. Lawrence Timmons picked through a hole on the play, but he missed the tackle, and Harrison kept pursuit to kill the play from behind after a gain of three yards.

Late in the third quarter, with the Titans facing second and goal from the four-yard line, attempting to go up by 11 points, Harrison was able to get by the rookie first round left tackle Taylor Lewan to hit Zach Mettenberger and influence his throw into an incompletion.

He looked like the pass rusher of old, taking that first step to the outside, dipping the shoulder, and using his arm to keep the tackle outside of his frame, speeding around the corner with nice bend. Harrison caught the quarterback in the thigh, which forced his throw wide to the left.

There are some players that defensive coordinators should just know not to leave unblocked on the back side, and Harrison has long been one of them, even now. He chased this one from behind once again in the fourth quarter, taking out Sankey’s legs after a one-yard gain.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • walter mason

    I never doubted him. And its not impossible to see him play another year, though unlikely.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    The only thing I don’t want him doing is covering RBs or TEs one on one. He’s responded well with everything else. Stellar against the run, even surprising me by chasing down some RBs. Fantastic rushing the passer. Just like Heyward, he is influencing plays even when he doesn’t get a sack or tackle. These Young guys better be paying attention!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    He’s an old fashioned animal!

  • joed32

    I sure doubted him. I never thought he would be in this kind of football shape. He’s an amazing specimen.

  • JAMESH

    Based on his play this year, I think there is a spot for him next year in some capacity. It isn’t a given that Worilds is on the team next year and we are woefully thin at the OLB position going into the draft. Who do we have that is better as a starter, let alone a backup?

  • Big White

    The Steelers without Harrison is like Peanut Butter without Jelly.

  • No “hi lo” block on BIg #62 in the first video???

  • ApexSteel

    Worilds and Jarvis need to watch what he doing and learn from him because his fundamentals are top notch. Unlike the other two he actually holds the edge while staying in position to make tackles and he actually understands that you need to follow the back’s upfield shoulder. Simple things that make a difference when it comes to his positioning.

  • joed32

    He’s taken Jones under his wing, don’t know about Worilds.

  • walter mason

    Yes a good example first gif as he holds the edge first forcing the rb inside and like you said also stayed in positon to make the tackle. Why do they even try to run to his side?

  • ApexSteel

    He and Worilds work out together every Monday. He may be closer to Harrison than Jarvis.

  • Jekiri Tonye

    Beast coming off the edge!

  • Jason

    He has said this is absolutely his last year but we all know that just means it’s the last year he’ll play at this salary. He’s without question our best OLB which says as much about the others as it does him.

  • charles

    Could not agree more. Especially the coverage part.

  • Jacque Strappe

    I think there were several of us that expected him to play at this level. I’d argue that he’s the best ever at his position at setting the edge vs the run. Still is.

  • Agree completely. I’ve been wrong before but I was lobbying for him before they started camp. I’m glad the FO came to their senses. I think he’ll be here next year too despite what most (even JH) say.

  • Pierre Miller

    His conditioning and lack of use the past two years I think could extend his career if he wanted to do one more year

  • sean mcmartin

    I wanted him back from the day he left. JH Brings leadership and attitude this defense lost when he left. At some point they will regress when Tomlin again has no back-ups ready to take over. (Yes, That is a coaches job)
    So I’m hoping this is the year they get the 7th SB win!!!

  • aaron walter

    If he doesn’t play next season he should take goodells job

  • Brendon Glad

    His performance does not surprise me at all. I was one of those fans who said on this site that I hoped the Steelers would sign him, because I felt that he would be needed. (Both based on my lack of trust in Worilds and Jones as players, and in my lack of trust in their durability for a full season). And I also felt like JH’s “demise” was more coincidence than fact. As soon as he made me comfortable that the back surgery (of 2-3 yrs ago) was a rousing success, then his weird eye injury, and miscast usage in the Cincy 4-3 of last year, started to make it look like he had more left than many thought. It’s clear that it takes JH awhile to learn a defense…that was the main reason he kept getting cut early in his career. But once he gets it, he GETS IT. So I love that he’s back…and, btw, he could be 50, and still be worth throwing out there against the Ravens…because he has their number. And that matters.