James Harrison Gets His Chance, Closes Out Game With Vintage Sack

While the Pittsburgh Steelers spent much of the evening dominating the previously-dominating Kansas City Chiefs on their home turf, they repeatedly failed to put the game away early, and so, when it came down to crunch time, they needed somebody—anybody—to come in and close it out.

Enter James Harrison. Literally.

The Steelers did rotate their outside linebackers on the day more than they have before, but while I don’t have an exact snap count in the minutes following the game, it didn’t seem as though Harrison played much.

But the coaching staff put him in the game when the Chiefs got the ball back with 1:42 to play and 56 yards to go to take the lead. The defense had done well in shutting out Kansas City’s offense—they had just one first down and single-digit yards in the first half—but it’s always hard to close out games.

Alex Smith completed one pass on that drive for 16 yards that put his team on the Steelers’ side of the ball, to the Steelers’ 40-yard line, but after two incomplete passes, it was Harrison who dipped the corner around left tackle Eric Fisher, dropping the quarterback for a loss of eight yards.

That put the Chiefs into a fourth and 18 situation, a desperation play with minimal chance of success. Smith simply threw the ball up, and had no red shirts near where the ball landed. It was incomplete, and the Steelers were suddenly in victory formation, dethroning the presumed best team in football, on the road.

And Harrison played a critical role, albeit a small one, in finishing the task at hand. Dropping Smith on third and 10 from the 40-yard line in a six-point game, it was a situation tailor-made for somebody to step up, and it was almost too good to be true for it to be the 39-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year, picking up his first sack of the season.

‘Deebo’, as his teammates call him, was not even dressed for the past two weeks as a healthy scratch because of the way that the Steelers had been using their outside linebackers—that is, not rotating them—and the fact that he was not playing on special teams.

But, as Mike Tomlin said before the game, they liked the matchup against the Chiefs’ left tackle, Eric Fisher, against whom the veteran outside linebacker has had a lot of success, so they gave him the helmet and seated Arthur Moats, who was a starter on the punt coverage unit.

For the game, Harrison finished with three tackles and the sack, but one could argue that you could also give him the W for this one. Of course, the Chiefs would have still had to get into the end zone. But the old man made sure to make that task as difficult as possible.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Reader783

    Absolutely. James is a legend.

  • Joseph Shaw

    Romo had it right—that subtle adjustment pre-snap, moving inside, then rushing outside, was magnificent and shows that pass rushing takes brains as well as brawn.

  • John

    He should be active the rest of the year. If we need to make Chickillo inactive, we should do so.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Just goes to show, a Silverback is the REAL king of the jungles!

    I love this man. Yeah, I said it. Big whoop. Wanna fight about it?!

  • francesco

    Dupree for me.

  • bulldog

    Was anyone else screaming at the tv for Harrison to be in on the final drive? I mean c’mon…

  • Shannon Stephenson


  • francesco

    Without Bell today it would not even be a contest so i say mvp today but JHarrison sack is what really gave us a W today.

  • Applebite

    Scratching Moats, almost cost them on special teams. So at least Harrison did his part today.

  • Michael James

    He’s still the best OLB on this team and ist’s not even close.

  • Kevin Artis

    Dupree is going to force us to draft another OLB in the first.

  • gdeuce

    held them in check most of the game, just that one return at the end that was also Berry’s longest punt of the game

  • melblount

    Wondering if Butler or Mikey noticed that today.

  • melblount

    DuPree is a bust, but DID manage to get his uni dirty this week at least.

    Seriously, if you haven’t ISO’d on this jackarse yet this season, do so next game, that is, if you have an upset stomach but just can’t quite barf it out.

  • Obi Ryn Denobi

    Tomlin’s had the luxury (No notable injuries of any duration at the position to this point, for the first time in at least a decade!) to have Deebo on the shelf, deprived of his raw meat, for a whole third of a season! I think this one’s been circled on his schedule since it came out!

    As special as young Watt is, or at least appears to be (Kendrell Bell), and as well-conditioned as any young Watt can be, he is still a rookie in his first 16 game season, who has never been asked to play much beyond half that ever before.

    Rookies tend to get gassed or go down with those muscle injuries right around the time Deebo should be rounding into form (And ludicrously hungry for some action! He was bouncing off the walls on that last drive!) opposite young Chickillo for late season duty, late in halves and whenever the starters are on the field too long and slowing down.

    The timing of his unleashing was vintage Mike Tomlin. He wanted him healthy, hungry and with enough in the tank to go the distance. This point, in this game, with the game on the line, and this (Straining on the chain and foaming at the mouth!), sitting in his reserve, was exactly what he was waiting for! The scene at the end with Tomlin and Deebo on the sidelines in each other’s faces over Deebo’s ridiculously timely sack is WHAT MIKE TOMLIN BRINGS TO YOUR FOOTBALL TEAM!!!!

    While maybe not enough to call it a rotation, I would expect to see a
    slight steady increase in the appearance of both Harrison and Chickillo,
    from here on out. If for no other reason than to spell starters for
    fresh, hungry legs, both of their snap counts should see an uptick.

    Barring injuries, of course, I’d keep Adams and Hueguenin (If he doesn’t get plucked!) safely tucked for the future. No need yet!

  • AndyR34

    What’s not to love?! A moment of anger in his past is not a reason to not love. Grace can be a wonderful thing in this world.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Yeah, I was just saying that I know some people like to frown upon man-on-man love. Personally, I’m secure in my masculinity and also may or may not have a stuffed Silverback gorilla that I sleep with named Deebs. 🙂

  • PA2AK_

    Lol pretty sure I said just yesterday, “maybe he’s toast?” Wondering why else wouldn’t he be playing at least some? ….got the answer to one of my questions. Hope he continues to prove me dead wrong!

  • nikki stephens

    I would like a big apology from all the tomlin “can’t do wrong” crowd. Sadly, coach T had to learn the SAME LESSON he was taught last year (cowboys loss). James Harrison is SOLID. He soundly tackles, (first play), prevents pulling guards and sweeps (no repeat chicago runs on his side), and applies great pressure (such as the sack and I think the pass before- right in Smiths face)!
    Why Mike, oh why, mike, could you not insert him in chicago game and Jax? See, you should know that there is more value than just JH play. It is the confidence the ILB’s, DL have, that JH will play in the proper space and will not flay aimlessly and whiff at a RB. There is alot to be said for the confidence JH provides to the other surrounding D players. Sorry Mike, as HC you don’t learn from your past mistakes. BE grateful there are many here to remind you.

  • Brenton deed

    BTW they rushed four on that play and all of them helped collapse the pocket. Chick looked like he got pushed wide but a closer look shows he was aiming for where smith was dropping and smith had to stop. Tuitt and Heywood collapsed the pocket and Smith was a sitting duck for Deebo. Great rush alround.

  • dany

    Would be funny if he’s inactive next week

  • Mark

    Is he really that bad? I had hopes for him, but he loves running up the arch and not stopping his pass rush to level off where the QB is located. His football IQ is low and yes we will draft another OLB until we get it right!

  • Mark

    How does Bud and Chick not learn from James on how to effectively rush the passer by getting your body into the tackle and ripping underneath. Bud plays way too high as an outside LB

  • melblount

    DuPree is horrific. He is the first Steeler player in many years that I can’t take my eyes off because he is SO bad.

    I don’t usually rubber-neck car or train wrecks, but I have become obsessed with ISO’ing on DuPree. He is an NFL train wreck of a player. A weak, one-trick (that they have completely figured out) pony.

    He comes from the Jarvis Jones school of regularly being near the play but NEVER being at the point of contact. Remarkably, he, like Jones, manages to regularly get himself in the camera frame so it may appear (to the casual eye) that he was in on the action. He was NOT, and his statistics bear this out, as do his game unis, which his Mom rarely needs to wash.

    To his credit (of sorts), Jarvis Jones would at least fall/get bumped onto the pile, and at least dirty his uni most weeks.

  • Dshoff

    I think its time to start playing harrison some at LOLB. Dupree just isn’t cutting it.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Different,much taller body type. Also doesn’t appear to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’s certainly a disappointment imo.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Keep him in The right side, and send Watt to take Dupree’s place

  • walter

    Alex had high hopes for Dupree but Im not sure what he is seeing.

  • walter

    Deebo has it patented

  • walter

    And i said no way he is toast. He trains to hard to be finished

  • walter

    I would like to see the replay. I thought Harrison made first contact but the others were also there a fraction of a second later.

  • Clutterbox

    Steelers, please give Harrison more snaps. I think he is still best overall OLB on the team. He is rarely out of position, a sure tackler, best run-stuffier LB, and also seems to step up at critical times in the game. Even at his age he seem to be one of the best condition players on the team. I can understand not wanting him to start every game, but I don’t understand why the Steelers had Chick ahead of him on the depth chart or least tried to play him in the Bears and Jaguars game.

  • Bradys_Dad

    For all those that defecated on me for regularly stating that Deebo should get snaps and set the edge :-p

  • Bradys_Dad

    right BEHIND ya – lol

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Yeah, I don’t get it. He’s clearly still got something and they don’t give him a hat – unless.. unless, they really want him around for the end of the season and are keeping his snaps low early.

    Otherwise, he’s clearly more disruptive than Dupree. I don’t see why he couldn’t get 15-20 snaps a game against the right tackle and a few subbing Watt.

  • MC

    Yeah I agree. Watt seems more capable to move around. Let Harrison be in the position he plays best at.

  • MC

    The fact they make the same mistakes, like abandoning the run game against a bad run defense is a little troubling.

  • MC

    Hmmmm interesting. Im too busying zoning on Watt and the d line but the fact that he hasn’t stood out to me is worrying. So much for all that technique coaching he received in the off season.

  • Roberto Vaquero Bazán

    Watt did drop in coverage a lot yesterday! Nice to have Silverback in The field!

  • Brenton deed

    Yes you’re right…. the way I wrote my comment made it sound sound as though Harrison wasn’t first when he was however Smith was reacting to the good work by the other rushers and had nowhere to go.