Strong Wattage Could Prove Joey Porter Right About James Harrison’s Playing Time

Back during the preseason, third-year Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter told reporters that rookie first-round pick T.J. Watt was going to be the starter at the right outside linebackers position, and that former Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison was going to be essentially coming off the bench and picking up scraps.

A former Steelers outside linebacker himself, Porter has a bit of an unfortunate history on this frontier when it comes to predicting a reduced playing time and workload for Harrison, having done so in each of the two prior seasons only to see him play more—and eventually significantly more—than projected.

In his defense, he was largely predicating his argument on the notion that Jarvis Jones was going to develop into a full-time starter, something that never happened—and which from the early showings looks as though Watt has already done, as he recorded two sacks, an interception, and several defensive stops in his debut.

As for Harrison, he played just four snaps, Watt receiving the rest of the time. In fact, the Steelers appeared so committed to the plan of sticking with two primary pass-rushers that, despite the absence of Bud Dupree, his replacement, Anthony Chickillo, also played all but four snaps, his vacated plays assumed by Arthur Moats.

Now, one game is a miniscule sample size and a far cry from establishing a trend, but so far it’s hard to argue against the indications that the team is going to leave Harrison on the bench much of the time as the designated pinch hitter.

Not because he can’t still play, of course. On one of his four snaps, I recall, he drove Joe Thomas back into the pocket and into the rookie quarterback’s lap. Watt never came close on any of his pass-rushing snaps to generating a similar display of power.

But he could still be needed later on in the season. That is when his role increased last season, entering the starting lineup for the final seven games of the regular season and through the playoffs, gradually increasing his playing time to the point at which he hardly came off the field.

That does not appear to be his fate this season, but the Steelers take comfort in the fact that they know that they have him in their back pocket—and even greater comfort in the fact that they may not actually have to deploy him on a full-time basis out of desperation.

As for Harrison himself, he has gone on record this offseason in stating that he would feel comfortable starting and playing somewhere in the vicinity of 50 snaps a game. That’s good to know for the Steelers, and even better to not need it.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • WreckIess

    Not just that, but he can also prove his ability as a coach due to Watt. I don’t think Watt was even close to where he’s at now before TC and if he keeps progressing, Chickillo continues as solid depth, and Bud plays up to his potential, it’ll be hard for anyone to deny Porter as a coach.

  • MattHat121

    I’m assuming reps given will be performance-based. If Watt continues to play well, he’ll continue to get majority of reps. I suppose the two things to keep in mind are: 1) The “rookie wall” that tends to happen late in the season, and 2) Situational advantage based on LT (are there certain LT who are weaker against JH’s bull rush/bend)? If so, can mix and match as needed.

  • 6 ring circus

    They say all rookies hit the wall at some point, but much has been made of Watt’s conditioning. I guess we’ll see about both if Silverback starts to get more snaps later in the season. This is a good problem to have.

  • newguy68

    It’s early and it was only game one. I love what Watt did and what the future holds for him. But we still need Deebo and Deebo ain’t going anywhere. 🙂

  • Bradys_Dad

    good things come to those who wait 😉 like even more sacks to add to his incredible total.

  • Scott Prosser

    At the conclusion of his rookie year Jarvis “Rag Doll” Jones was asked if he was going to use the off season to get bigger and stronger. He replied that he did not have to get any bigger and really did not enjoy working out that much. I knew right then and there that he was a massive bust. He is now out of football 4 years after being a number one pick. Great job JJ!!

  • Cletus

    Man, writer dude, I hope you get these puns out of your system soon so we can read on wince-free.

  • Dshoff

    I just did some charting the pass rush of the Browns game and thought that I’d pass it on. We rushed only 3 guys 7 times, 4 guys 21 times, 5 guys 15 times, and 6 guys 1 time. I was surprised by the 5 guys 15 times but was happy about it. I got real tired of them only rushing 3 and 4 guys last year and letting the qb pick us apart. I’d rather go down blitzing then laying back.

  • Mike Lloyd

    Wow…who knew Joey Porter was such a soothsayer…predicting the number 1 pick would relegate a 39 year old to reduced playing time and backup duty…
    Wow JPeezy…Can you tweet out tomorrow’s Lotto/Power ball numbers? Geez

  • Nathanael Dory

    Had the same feeling.

  • MC

    That push by Harrison was great to see. I really think they should bring him in here and there when the tackle tires so he can take advantage like he did to Thomas that play. Im sure they wanna keep James fresh for the home run but I don’t want Watt to burn out either,, I know he’s young but coming from 14 games to 16 and at this elite level COULD take a toll but we’ll see..

  • MC

    Unfortunately I knew he was a bust the moment we picked him, good news is I had the complete opposite feeling when they took Watt even with how new he is to the position.
    Heart, motor, work ethic, prototypical OLB body and athleticism – all traits that Watt has that Jarvis doesn’t

  • RevDrEBuzz

    I you just took a tackling dummy and placed it on the field, it would have a bigger impact than Jervis. No idea what Tomlin saw in that dude.

  • Richard Edlin

    I’m hoping Watt has a few weeks “off” with Harrison taking the lion’s share in those weeks. If he can manage two weeks on, one week off until the bye then he’s going to be a lot fresher come the end of the season.

  • Steve

    Jarvis ran around like a Chicken with his head cut off, last year. His skills were non existent and his football IQ was zero. So many times they ran right at Jarvis, he looked like the mouse in the sky is falling, didn’t have a clue.