With Watt Out, Question Looms Over James Harrison’s Playing Time

With it coming out yesterday that the Pittsburgh Steelers have already ruled out starting right outside linebacker T.J. Watt for Sunday’s game in Chicago against the Bears, it almost begs the question, doesn’t it?

Is James Harrison going to play this week, and if so, for how long? The 39-year-old former defensive player of the year did not even take the field on Sunday, and in the season opener he still managed to log just four snaps, despite the absence of Bud Dupree for that contest.

Even with Watt missing the entirety of the second half in the Steeler’s previous game, that still did not get Harrison on the field, although Arthur Moats did log a couple of snaps for himself—I believe they came at the left outside linebacker position.

While he has been saying—or not saying—the appropriate things regarding his playing status through two games, he did express somewhat of a sense of surprise over the fact that he has seen such little work to date, all the while intimating that he is okay with whatever role the coaches have in store for him.

During the week, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the situation and essentially said that the Steelers were favoring Anthony Chickillo at the moment for the simple reason that he has done well while he was in there. He started the season opener in Dupree’s place on the left side, while Harrison is primarily on the right side.

Tomlin also said that he expects that Harrison will have an important role to play at some point in this season and that he will be prepared when he is called upon. So will that come this week?

How hot will Chickillo’s hand be that it would keep last year’s primary starter on the bench for the entire game?

Particularly if the Bears manage to martial off a couple of long drives here and there, it would be hard to imagine the Steelers’ coaches asking Chickillo to go the length of the game, even considering the fact that he played all put four snaps when he started the opener.

It’s really not necessary for them to take that action, and it really wouldn’t hurt to get Harrison a small handful of snaps on a weekly basis, even for just one drive. And admittedly, I do have a feeling that he will see some playing time during tomorrow’s game.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Michael Putman

    I’m sure James is frustrated, but he appears to be handling this like a professional. He has invested a lot of time and money into conditioning himself and pushing himself to still be an elite athlete. I agree with limiting his snaps, however I am sure he would like to be a little more involved week in and week out. Hopefully the Steelers find a balance and can get James 5-10 situational snaps per game. That would allow him to be involved, that would allow him to stay fresh for the end of the year, that would allow the younger guys to stay fresh longer too.

  • James Harrison will log some snaps. He’s limited because he’s not a guy that can drop back into coverage. So he’ll get in there when chick needs a breather. Hubbard will be fine in his start. I want to see the run game & the TE’s get right!

  • DoctorNoah

    Harrison is actually quite decent in coverage and has been for a decade. Where are you getting that contention from?

  • dany

    That image reminds me, he will probably play and start November 12 against the colts, have at least a 2 sack game. Same as the past 3 years

  • When he was in his prime yes. But over the last couple of years.. not so much. He rushes the passer or contains edge now. Why do you think he didn’t get snaps last week when Watt went out? Moats got snaps over Harrison.

  • Dshoff

    Absolutely. Last year when I complained so much about harrison dropping into coverage more than any other olb, they came back with, stats show he’s the best coverage lb we have.

  • Dshoff

    If Harrison doesn’t get some playing time this week, I’ll be pissed. Like you said; it isn’t necessary to play Chick the entire game, every snap. I also don’t understand Hargrave’s lack of playing time. It’s like he’s in the doghouse or something. Everybody can see that he is a force on just the few times that he gets in.

  • Alan Tman

    Chickillo will play over James, because they want to resign Chickillo. I like James, but as you all have pointed out to me several times it’s what is best for us to win championships. Chickillo staying helps in that way.

  • That’s my point. We don’t need him dropping back. A late 30’s OLB WAS our best but not anymore. That’s why I said they want to use him in situations that call for pass rush/edge containment. It’s his new role & he’ll get his 8-10 snaps a game. They’ll need him on that playoff run, he’ll be the key during that run. Young bucks will learn a lot from his playoff experience.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    exactly. above comment is ridiculous.

  • Terrible Towlie

    I would hope that Deebo goes back to being the starter at his primary position

  • blue

    Deebo returns. He is 39 no need to rush him into the season, we need him for playoff run. Future HOF

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Play whomever you have to play to win the game. Protect guys that are dinged or need rest if you can.