Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison wishes that he hadn’t signed on for the 2017 season since he’s not seeing the field.
“James Harrison told me today if he had known he wasn’t going to play much [inactive for 6 games, DNP for two more], he would not have signed with the Steelers this season,” wrote NBC’s Michele Tafoya. “Would he have played somewhere else? ‘Oh, yeah,’ he said. ‘Who wants to NOT play?’”
Harrison is a legend. He spent one down year wholesale jerseys with the Cincinnati Bengals, but the rest of his entire career has been in Pittsburgh. He’s the type of player people will mention in 30 years when talking about the great Steelers in the Hall of Fame. He’s a fan favorite and a leader.
And he wishes he was somewhere else.
The Steelers have simply been moving on. Whether he’s on the roster or not, they’re going with youth. Stars like rookie T.J. Watt are getting the snaps. Harrison, at 39 years old, is watching from the sidelines.
Harrison has 788 career tackles and 82.5 sacks. This year? Just three tackles and one sack. They all came against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 15th. It’s the only game in which he’s recorded anything. Even other games where he technically played just saw him on the field for a handful of meaningless snaps.
It’s grating on him. The Steelers have talked about having a plan for him and there’s been speculation that they’re saving him for the playoffs. Maybe they are.
But for now, Harrison wishes he wasn’t in Pittsburgh at all. He wishes he’d signed somewhere else. The Steelers are poised to lock down the No. 1 seed in the AFC if they can beat the Patriots next Sunday, but Harrison has realistically not been part of the campaign at all, and he’s finally fed up.
Linebacker James Harrison has only gotten on the field in three of the Steelers’ games so far this season. And he’s not happy about being left “in the garage.”
Harrison signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract extension before the 2017 season. But he told NBC’s Michele Tafoya that he wouldn’t be in Pittsburgh this season if he had known he’d be sitting on the sideline.
Tafoya said on the Sunday Night Football broadcast of Ravens vs. Steelers that the team sees Harrison as “no more than an insurance policy” at this point. He doesn’t like it.
“Would you sit out of your profession for three-quarters of the season and then think you can step in there and do better than the person that’s been doing it?”
The emergence of rookie outside linebacker T.J. Watt — yes, J.J. Watt’s younger brother — has been part of the reason Harrison has been bumped to a backup role. Watt has 38 tackles, five sacks, and a pick on the season.
Head coach Mike Tomlin explained via the team’s website that the outside linebacker role has changed in the NFL, and the Steelers had to change with it.
“And it’s evolved within the last decade, since I’ve been here. Outside linebacker was a rush-man’s position in the early part of my tenure. Guys like LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison were defensive-end-like. They rushed the vast majority of the time. With the evolution of spread football, read-option football, RPOs as the college guys call it – run-pass options – and all the empty backfield stuff, it has become a hybrid position, where they’re asked to do a lot of things: rush, drop in zone, play man-to-man. I just think it’s part of the evolution of football, and I think (outside linebackers) are the most significant components to the adjustments that defenses have made.”
Harrison, 39, signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State University following the 2002 draft. He showed no signs of aging last season, when he racked up 53 tackles, five sacks, and a pick in 15 games with the Steelers. Some of that can be credited to his extreme workout regimen.
But the backup life isn’t for Harrison. He told Tafoya he expects this to be his last season in Pittsburgh.
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