James Harrison was once an excellent all-around outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and holds the team’s pass rushing single season record with 16 sacks during a Defensive Player of the Year season in 2008.
At least for one night, he came pretty close to being that player again against Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens, recording two sacks (four total in the last two games to lead the team on the season) and several other hits and pressures, one of which forced an interception.
Harrison really helped get things cover for the Steelers toward the end of the first quarter when he notched his first sack of the game on third and seven from the 45-yard line.
It really was just a classic pass rush for him, dipping that shoulder and getting underneath Eugene Monroe, who is admittedly not far removed from a knee scope. But you can only go against the person in front of you, and Harrison showed excellent ankle bend to get around the corner as he hammered Flacco with a tomahawk swipe.
Then, midway through the second quarter, the Steelers were able to scheme Harrison into an unblocked pressure as he faked an inside rush and worked around the left tackle, preoccupied with a Cameron Heyward bull rush. He showed closing instincts as Flacco barely got the ball away, only to have it land in Jason Worilds’ arms.
With the Ravens driving late in the second half, just after the two-minute warning, Harrison got pressure despite the fact that Baltimore kept in seven to block five. He stunted inside through the B Gap and came in untouched again, blasting Flacco and planting him hard into the ground on second and eight to force an incompletion.
After the Ravens managed to hold the Steelers offense off the scoreboard to open the second half, they were hoping to climb back into the game and cut into the 12-point deficit, but Harrison ended that drive on its eight play with his second sack, which he had to fight for to get, since it was originally ruled just an incompletion.
His initial responsibility was coverage, as he chipped the tight end before passing him on to the inside linebackers, but after Flacco failed to get the ball away early, he watched and then rushed, twisting him down. The Steelers challenged and replay clearly showed that the quarterback’s shin was down on the ground before he got the ball out.
Late the in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger fumbled a quarterback-center exchange, and the Ravens were able to recover on the Steelers’ 33-yard line. They hoped to capitalize quickly with a deep ball into the end zone, but thanks to Harrison, it wasn’t easy.
Initially, the Steelers only rushed three, with Worilds staying back to chip the tight end coming out. None of that really mattered, because Harrison blew by Monroe with a false outside step and a sharp cut inside, flying past and getting to the quarterback, who had to hurry his throw. The ball hung up there and the cornerback was able to defend it.