Timing, Circumstances Favor Using James Harrison Tonight

I don’t think there has been a game this season yet more well-suited for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make great used of outside linebacker James Harrison than is today’s game in Detroit. Not only has he seemingly moved himself up in the pecking order, starter T.J. Watt is slightly dinged, and their left tackle is making his first start ever.

And he’s 6’9”. Harrison’s leverage game would seem to be an obvious advantage working against Brian Mihalik on paper. He already showed that he can still be effective, even in critical moments, working late against Eric Fisher of the Chiefs a couple of weeks ago.

Especially considering that the Lions don’t like to run the football very frequently, one would think that Watt, dinged ankle and all—as well as Bud Dupree on the other side—would be all the more in need of relief from time to time during the game to be spelled for a few snaps, depending on how well Detroit sustains drives.

Just generally speaking, I think that it is worth wondering aloud how many snaps Harrison might be able see coming into a game like this. The fact that they have a bye week lurking on the other side doesn’t hurt either.

While he has poked fun at the fact that he has not been playing much a time or two over the course of the past several weeks, the 39-year-old has generally been a good sport about the fact that he is in a significantly reduced role this year, even while teammates like Ben Roethlisberger have wondered about his reduced playing time.

The Steelers were without Dupree for the season opener, and Anthony Chickillo did well filling in for him. He then came in for Watt on the other side and continued to hold his own, so the coaching staff, in their own words, stuck with the hot hands for a while.

It seems that the hand has cooled enough that they like to get Harrison on the field again, or at least to have him dressed, instead turning to Arthur Moats for the inactive list. Watt has replaced the veteran’s role on special teams, though with him dinged, they may dress all five outside linebackers.

Another good showing on the field for the veteran would be well-timed, in truth, with the Steelers heading into the break. The coaching staff will be re-evaluating the season to date after today, and the manner in which players are used.

If Harrison has an impactful performance, then that could earn him a bigger piece of the pie over the course of the second half of the season. After all, it was just last season that they ended up moving him into the starting lineup. That’s not going to happen this year, but he could take some snaps away from the rookie, which could be beneficial to both down the stretch.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Conserv_58

    Just having Mahalik see Deebo lined up across from him is a win for the Steelers.

  • pittfan

    Considering the terrible RZ D thus far, Deebo, (he of 100 yard Super Bowl pick 6’s) should be first in line on all goaline D. And serving up a fresh meal at LT calls for 10-15 snaps there today too.

  • pittfan

    Mahalik has to have nightmares of Deebo from having worked against him in practice and seeing him at work in the weight room.
    He’s a baaaad man!!

  • Rocksolid20

    Did Debo practice ?

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Agreed, it makes sense for a million reasons. I bet you Tomlin keeps him on the bench though.

  • pittfan

    I have no reason to think not. Do you know differently?

  • Talyn Scarbrough

    I don’t think deebo was practicing cuz it was gonna take reps from the rooks and younger players. Deebo is 39, he knows what he has to do and does what he needs to. He pretty much got to sit out of training camp.

  • pittfan

    You may be right. But I’m certain Mahalik knows what he’s up against In Deebo

  • Rocksolid20

    Your comment was , ” Mahalik has to have nightmares of Debo from having
    worked against him in practice ” That would have been pre-season and Debo
    didn’t practice .

  • pittfan

    I assumed he had. So you’re saying Mahalik never practiced against Deebo?

  • AndyR34

    Of course(!)…because it makes sense to play him to us mere fans.

  • dany

    He was in training camp last year, halfway through got injured. James practiced more last year so I’m sure he’s seen him

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’s stubborn. Look at the way he burns his starting running backs out, and then they get hurt late in the season.

  • Jaybird

    Until TJ Watt shows some sort of weakness , there is no reason to Deboo should take snaps from him. Watt makes so many plays that Deebo just can’t make any more. His back side pursuit of RBs is incredible. And it’s not like he isn’t getting pressures or sacks either. Play the best man and right now it’s TJ. In fact TJ has outplayed Dupree so far. Give Deebo some of Dupree’s snaps.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Aaaaand he doesn’t play lol.

  • The Truth

    What weaknesses has Harrison shown to be benched in favor of an unproven rookie? You can’t say coverage because Harrison was good in coverage last year. As for Watt, he can’t get to the QB.

    Who would you rather have rushing the QB with Mahilik at tackle; Watt or Harrison?

    Dupree should be benched or have his playing time cut in half. If anything put Watt on the left and Harrison on the right. Or Chickillo/Watt with a good does of Harrison.

  • Jaybird

    Harrison can’t cover any more. I’m sorry but he just can’t run like he used to. TJ is incredible in coverage. I respect your loyalty and love of Harrison’s game, but TJ is a better all around player right now- better pass rusher, run stopper, and in coverage. You make it sound like if Harrison was playing he’d have multiple sacks every game. I think you are underestimating just how good TJ is. And to answer your question- I’d rather have TJ go against Mahilik or any other Tackle over Harrison – because I think TJ is better at this point in their careers! Anyway- enjoy the season bro , go Steelers and go TJ and JamesH.

  • The Truth

    Wow, that is shocking. You think Watt is a better choice to go against Mahikik than Harrison.

    Until proven otherwise, Harrison sets the edge the best and rushes the passer the best among the OLBs.

    Also, there is no proof that Harrison cannot only hang in coverage. I agree, in coverage, Watt is better due to youth and length

  • Jaybird

    Harrison rides the pine , Watt is a starter. It has been proven by the coaching staff that Watt is a better football player than Harrison.