James Harrison Sidelined While Steelers Ride The Hot Hand

For the first time in a long time, James Harrison didn’t play a single snap in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, even with T.J. Watt missing most of the game. Instead, the team used Anthony Chickillo and Bud Dupree almost exclusively. But with the positive results those two have achieved, Mike Tomlin didn’t want to rock the boat.

“Wanted to leave the hot hand in there,” Tomlin said during today’s press conference. “Chickillo being the hot hand.”

That’s after Chickillo seized on his Week One opportunity, notching a pair of sacks while Dupree was sidelined. Dupree picked up his first of the season against the Vikings and this year’s pass rush is already light years ahead of where it was a year ago.

Pittsburgh has nine sacks through two weeks, tied for second most in the NFL. Through two weeks in 2016, they had just one. And if you remember, that was a “lukewarm” sack of Arthur Moats tagging up a sliding Andy Dalton.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But Tomlin acknowledged Harrison’s time will come.

“We appreciate James. We know what James is capable of. James will ready himself. There will be a time in the season where we’ll call on his services and he’ll deliver and deliver in a big way. Much like he did at the latter part of 2016.”

All five of Harrison’s sacks last season came in either November or December, becoming the team’s all-time sack leader. He had another 2.5 sacks in the playoffs.

Tomlin said the Steelers would continue to be unpredictable in how they deploy their pass rushers. In part due to the “gamesmanship” nature of the league, these are state secrets, and the continuation of watching relatively young pass rushers like Chickillo, Dupree, and Watt progress, their play determining how the depth chart shakes out.

Either way, it’s a good problem to have. If those three play like they have, Harrison will be quality depth. If there’s an issue, the team has a 39 year old freak waiting to step in.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    although I agree with the coaches hot hand statement I think I would have liked to see deebo instead of mates for this home game for sentimental reasons

  • Ed Smith

    Would like to see him get a few reps here and there so there is no “rust” when called upon later in the year (not like we’ve seen rust on anyone else on the team… in unison now “#26”)

  • Matt Manzo

    True! Great point!

  • The Tony

    There is no chance that Tomlin cares about sentiment when deciding who to play

  • nutty32

    Saving him for the second half like they did last year.

  • Wil Masisak

    This is the guy who force fed Hines Ward shovel passes to get him 1000 catches, and called a pass play when running out the clock in a close game to keep AB’s 5/50 streak alive, right?

  • francesco

    A freak on the sidelines doesn’t scare anyone. On the field yes. If you want Harrison to lead and be a voice for the young defense then he must get snaps every game even if it is a handful.

  • Dshoff

    Well check this out guys. I charted the pass rushes and we rushed 3 guys 7 times, 4 guys 28 times and 5 guys ONLY 7 times. With the great pressure we got I was SURE that we rushed 5 guys more than that. But here’s the thing about the 7 rushes of 5 guys. 4 of those 7 we hit the qb. Of the other 3 when we didn’t hit the qb, 1 was great pressure, 1 was so so pressure (the pocket was collapsing) and the other was when Dupree was right in front of him and batted the ball. To me that’s 100% with the 5 man rush! That is UNREAL.

  • John Pennington

    I dont Deebo put in all that hard work to stand on the sidelines.If he wasnt going to be in their plans maybe the should have told him.Let him retire then make him a coach and all will be good again.

  • Jim McCarley

    Young speed and endless motor was the deciding factor….imo. James does not have that speed anymore, much like Troy Polamalu didn’t as he aged…we need young men that can get there. James may still be great at the point of attack, but he’s not going to run down many people…