The Pittsburgh Steelers seem as though they will be without the services of outside linebacker James Harrison on Sunday for their critical division match up against the Cincinnati Bengals, despite the fact that he played all but three snaps in the team’s last game against the New Orleans Saints.
Harrison had taken over the starting position over the course of the past two games ahead of Arthur Moats, who started the first seven games since Jarvis Jones suffered a wrist injury.
With Jones coming back this week, however, it will be a combination of Moats and Jones manning the right outside linebacker spot for at least this week. They will be attempting to replicate or better performances such as the one broken down below.
For as well as he has played overall since signing with the Steelers after the third game of the season, one area of his game in which he has been rarely tested is dropping into coverage. It’s not that he doesn’t do it—though he does drop less often than he used to—he isn’t often tested.
He was targeted twice by Drew Brees, however, which included the first play of the game. Harrison dropped back to cover running back Pierre Thomas, who ran up to his base and cut sharply to the left sideline. Harrison didn’t have the speed to turn and run with the back, who got to the sideline, where the linebacker finally chased him down after a 13-yard gain.
On the following play, however, he did get underneath left tackle Terron Armstead on the pass rush and was able to draw an offensive holding call, as he was pulled down by the arm as he turned the corner.
Late in the second quarter, on a running down, the Saints countered Harrison with tight end Josh Hill, whom the outside linebacker quickly shed as he joined a pile of Steelers to bring down Mark Ingram after a short gain. Harrison also made a back-side tackle assist for a two-yard gain on the previous play.
The Steelers ended the first half on a disappointing note, going down 14-6 late and missing a long field goal as time expired after leading 6-0 early. It was important for the defense to get off the field quickly, and they did manage to do that, pulling off a three and out to start the second half.
Harrison was once again countered with Hill, and Harrison, again, was able to shed the block, coming off and tripping up Ingram by the ankles as Cameron Heyward came from across the formation to finish off the tackle after a two-yard gain.
Harrison had another run stop late in the game, working the edge against the tackle, Armstead. Ingram cut through the hole around left guard, but the linebacker was able to release and make the tackle after just a one-yard gain.