James Harrison Tackles Father Time, Reaches Double-Digit Postseason Sacks

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison entered the playoff game against the Dolphins at the age of 38—and 249 days. Yet, aside from his dominant era in which he was consistently an All-Pro, capped off by a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2008, he is probably playing the best football of his career.

He finished the Wildcard game against the Dolphins with 10 total tackles, as well as a sack and a half, including a forced fumble inside the red zone that prevented Miami from potentially getting back into the game at the end of the first half.

Considering his age, what Harrison is doing on the field is awfully impressive. He is the oldest defensive player in the league, and among the very few oldest players period, and yet he is not only playing well, he is outperforming his younger competition. He started this season as a rotational player.

Jarvis Jones began the season as the Steelers’ starting right outside linebacker, and was recording the majority of the snaps, but that changed in the second half of the season. In large part simply due to Harrison’s performance, he leapfrogged Jones and began logging the majority of the snaps himself.

In the late stages of the season, in fact, he actually began logging virtually every snap—that is, until the final game of the regular season, because the Steelers played well enough to secure the third seed in the playoffs with no opportunity to help or hurt their playoff seeding.

Pittsburgh largely dominated the Dolphins during the Wildcard game, as well, which resulted in the coaching staff choosing to let Harrison sit. Jones ended up finishing the game, and even recorded a tackle and batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage.

Many of his plays were very impactful, in fact, and he was instrumental in bottling up Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. His first three tackles were all against Ajayi, for gains of 0, -3, and 2 yards. In fact, every single one of his tackles went for a stop, including five plays for a loss or no gain, including his sack and a half.

Harrison has now recorded at least one sack in three consecutive playoff games, and with his sack and a half against Miami, is the second player in Steelers history to have at least 10 sacks in the playoffs. He now has 10, and LaMarr Woodley has 11.

By and large, the Steelers’ defense held Miami in check when the game was still competitive—outside of a few splash plays here and there. But with the turnovers and sacks, including the forced fumble from Harrison, the Dolphins had little chance.

The 12 points the Steelers allowed in the Wildcard Round is the 11th-fewest that they have ever allowed in a playoff game in nearly 60 games, and the fewest in over a decade. Harrison’s performance had quite a lot to do with their ability to keep the scoreboard in their favor.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • WreckIess

    Still an incredible story. The man was supposed to be retired two years ago and had it not been for Jarvis getting hurt that season who knows how much worse the defense would be without him. 38 years old and he’s still making plays like he’s in his 20s.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Silverback is back and he’s smart, too!

  • RickM

    It’s just a stunning accomplishment by James, and a testament to his ability and the many extra hours he dedicates to his job. Every player on the team can learn from his example.

  • Michael James

    Timmons and Harrison should absolutely be resigned.

  • Gizmosteel

    “Random” drug test likely coming this week.

  • Sam Scalleat

    I know a lot of talk when James Harrison retired said that he was likely not a HOFer. However, I think his play since unretiring over the past few seasons, and especially this year, strongly warrants his consideration. He may be short on the sacks totals, but not many other players have played so well for so long or have had a such well rounded game.

  • Steve

    Bring on the Drug test, James has them about every other week.

  • Sam Clonch

    Agree. Need to look for replacements for both too though.

  • mem359

    I feel the same way. Too bad he didn’t get the MVP for the Arizona SB, that would have helped.

    There has to be some stat that would show his run-stopping ability (which a fair number of sack leaders can’t do).

    Kind of amazing that he has the Steelers sack record, but he is only around 55 on the all-time list.

  • steelburg

    I agree. Both need to back with replacements in place.

  • Petherson Silveira

    He is a monster! Even if win the SB, he need to come back, because he is playing stellar. Forget the age and just look at his performance, so you will see that he deserve to be back with a very salary.

  • dany

    Well Vince is Timmons’. His extension pretty much states it

  • dany

    Eric Fisher is next for him. At least another sack is coming

  • Michael James

    Absolutely. OLB has to be the top priority in the draft and getting another young ILB wouldn’t hurt, too. Having said that, it’s still amazing to see Harrison and Timmons playing at such a high level.

  • Jeff Papiernik

    He did get NFL DPOY in 2008. That’s pretty hard to do.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The best stat to really show that is tackle totals. A ‘good’ year for a 3-4 OLB is like 55-65 tackles. He’s been over 100 a few times.

  • Steeler-Drew

    Can’t say enough good things about James. From his dedication to play on the field. His value to this defense can’t be measured. Love that he is still a Steeler.

  • mem359

    I just meant that extra accolade would have made the argument a little stronger.

    I mention DPOY anytime someone points out that the Steelers don’t have enough young talent to push an old man off the field, because “less than DPOY” can still be quite a bit more than the average “starter”.

  • Nicholas Danaluk

    Long shot to win a SB, but if we do then I say Harrison retires.

  • Nicholas Danaluk

    The rumor is James was tested at halftime after the FF.

  • MC

    Sign him up for another year with Timmons.

  • Michael James

    If we do win one, I would totally understand it – riding into the sunset as a champion….can’t get any better.

  • Kevin artis

    This doesn’t change the draft strategy. OLB/Edge Rusher/DE in the first two rounds. I would even take a late rounder and a couple of UDFAs at the position.

  • Brendon Glad

    I like you Mr. Marczi, but I must take issue with, “Considering his age, what Harrison is doing on the field is very impressive.” ????

    Why does the Depot consistently water-down James Harrison’s performance with comments like “considering his age”?

    The man has been playing at a Pro-Bowl level ever since he got taken off the “snap-count”. If you can see a noticeable difference in his dominance the last 7 weeks than you saw in his prime, then you should do a film breakdown of it. Because I see dominance. I see him wrecking running plays to the opposite side, as he always did. I see him getting the edge as he always did….I see him dropping into coverage and being a factor…not a liability.

    I do not see a declining old-vet who manages to sneak in some stats simply off of guile and experience. THAT is what a guy does who is still doing impressive work on the field “considering his age”. He is still changing games!

    For the record, I’d be offering him 3/24 in April…yes, THREE! and the only thing that would make me hesitate would be if the LB and AB deals can’t get done that way.

    Thank you, James Harrison!!! You are in my top-5 favorite Steelers ever! And even better in the big games

  • Brendon Glad

    He has been incredible. Truly the key difference for the Defense during the winning streak.
    And the most exciting thing about it is that he doesn’t look like an old vet who is relying 90% on guile and experience….Yes, his guile is apparent, like on that strip sack where he tricked the LT into doubling-down. But many times, he’s taking on blockers and beating them with a variety of power and still quickness. The pure speed is even still pretty good in 5-15 yard spaces. I’m so ecstatic about his performance. Because he is one of my very most favorite Steelers ever. I never want it to end.

  • Brendon Glad

    I don’t know if everyone can learn from it. There have been a lot of OLB’s who were brought in to learn from James…and they just can’t learn enough.
    He is a special player. And now he has a knowledge of his craft that is such a testament to his intelligence and work ethic too. I mean he got cut multiple times because he just couldn’t understand his position. He was blowing up Special teams the whole way…was a premier specimen of athleticism the whole way. But he apparently was so lacking in knowledge that he was cut multiple times. And NOW, he is like a genius out there! He tricks people, he sets up his OL opponent with different looks…he saves his “ace” for the biggest moments…He always plays within the system (like how he always holds contain on opposite side running plays before he bursts in to disrupt it)…
    AND…his athleticism has changed a bit…but almost for the better. As he said himself, he is not as fast, but is stronger. So now his edge move involves a bigger chunk of his shoulder into the LT, as opposed to earlier in his career. It is creating much more holding calls…and I think is a better rush than when he used to go wider on his edge-rush.