During his Friday press conference to officially announce his retirement from the NFL, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison made it a point to thank his former teammate, Joey Porter, who is currently a defensive assistant with the team.
Why? Well, if Porter had not been ejected prior to the kickoff of the Week 10 game against the Cleveland Browns for fighting running back William Green during pregame warm-ups, the former undrafted free agent out of Kent State may have never been given a chance to show what he was capable of.
“I appreciate Joey fighting and everything to give me that start,” Harrison said Friday. “That pop in Cleveland, that’s when they got a little glimpse of what I could do. I appreciate Joey Porter for that. My greatest supporter.”
The Steelers got more than just a glimpse of what Harrison could do in that game against the Browns as he led the team in tackles with six and registered the first of his 66 career regular season sacks when he sacked quarterback Jeff Garcia with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
Despite his efforts against the Browns, Harrison had to wait several more games to show what he could on defense. His next break came when starting left outside linebacker Clark Haggans injured his groin early in the Week 14 game against the New York Jets.
Even then, Harrison was forced to rotate initially with former second-round draft pick Alonzo Jackson, who the team hadn’t quite given up on yet. Harrison did manage to start the final three games that season, however. Jackson, on the other hand, wound up being released just prior to the start of the 2005 season.
Strangely enough, Harrison’s continued progress over the course of the next few seasons resulted in the Steelers being able to part ways with Porter in March of 2007 in a salary cap cutting move. Harrison, who at that time only had four career sacks, replaced Porter as the starter at right outside linebacker and never looked back.
It’s funny to think that had Porter not taken a few swings at Green prior to the start of that 2004 game in Cleveland that we might have never been treated to the several great highlights that Harrison provided us over the years. It’s no wonder why Harrison made it a point to thank his former teammate on Friday.