Is it time to see more of James Harrison?

Following a loss to the Chicago Bears where the Pittsburgh Steelers gave up 222 yards rushing and only sacked the quarterback twice, it’s time to have a serious discussion about 39-year old James Harrison.

In his 15th NFL season, we know what James can do. His frame allows him to dip when necessary to rush quarterbacks and on occasion, he gets a holding call when it counts; we’ve seen it happen for a 10-yard penalty, a safety, or even negating a two-point conversion in the playoffs.

Oftentimes that’s been the difference between winning and losing.

Okay. Now in saying that, we know James is also 39 years old. And at 39, is he still as physically fit as ever?

Yes. I believe so.

It doesn’t take an Instagram or Twitter follower to know that. ESPN and NFL Network help out by showing his daily workouts on social media so that the world can see what kind of shape the Steelers linebacker is in. So the focus shifts to if he’s in such great shape, why hasn’t Harrison been on the field? Why isn’t the franchise sacks leader getting after the quarterback? And why hasn’t James seen more than four snaps in a game to set the edge and stuff the opposing team’s running game?

My colleagues at Steel City Underground actually disagree with me largely on this topic of discussion, so I am going to lay out my thoughts and would encourage yours as well. We all have our opinions and insights on players but I would like your input to have your voice heard.

I will try and keep emotion out of it because it is no secret, I love James Harrison and what he has brought to the city of Pittsburgh and to the Steelers. But I want to just talk football and why I believe our key to winning at this time, in Week 4 of the 2017 season, could be letting the “old guy” in.

On Sunday, we had some absolute game-changing opportunities that the Steelers just could not capitalize on. Martavis Bryant dropped a sure touchdown on the first play of the game. Eli Rodgers muffed a punt in the next series.

And of course, there was the dropped interception by Mike Mitchell, which may have won the Steelers the game. To add insult to injury, the defense played poorly. Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams misread gap assignments, Javon Hargrave continually went up the middle, and Anthony Chickillo failed to set the edge, as Bears QB Mike Glennon handed the ball off to Jordan Howard to gain ridiculous yardage, including an overtime opening drive to lead Chicago to victory.

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So let’s get back to why James Harrison needs to play at least 1/3 of the snaps. Harrison is a game changer. His intensity off the edge, his 15 years worth of knowledge, understanding the situation and knowing what to do on any given play, not only makes opposing offenses nervous but it is hard to plan for him. I get the whole, he’s old and has slowed a bit, but when you mix him in with the younger guys this allows them to learn, and to continue to understand and to follow in his footsteps.

If you were QB Mike Glennon, who are you more afraid of? Anthony Chickillo who likes to fly high to get you?

Or James Harrison, whose presence alone coming at you full blast is a force of nature? Most quarterbacks in the league immediately recoil to get out of the way of Harrison.

But the most glaring issue I have with Harrison’s absence on the field is our tackling or lack thereof. Every player seems to want to make those “splash plays” instead of sticking to fundamentals.

James doesn’t go after the ball first. He goes after the player. It is amazing how many balls find their way onto the ground because of that mentality, which, in the words of my SCU colleague Brian Roach is, “Fundamentals first, splash second.” Even Coach Tomlin said, “There were several of those instances where we weren’t good tacklers.”

And then in the words of a respected beat writer, Jim Wexell, on his report “Your high-pedigreed and highly-paid linebackers sure could’ve used some help from the old man on the bench.”

Amen Jim. Amen.

The Steelers face the Ravens this week. They do not need their outside linebackers getting pushed out of the way. What they need is James Harrison in there to set the edge, stand his ground, lead by example and show these young guys a few things about winning. It is time to get the old man off of the bench. It’s time to unleash “Deebo” on the opposition.

Do you feel the same way? Leave me a comment below!

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