End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: James Harrison
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 13 Years
Despite retiring in September, by the end of the 2014 season, James Harrison was a starting outside linebacker for a playoff team, a position that he earned by incrementally outplaying his teammates and earning more playing time.
How is that not somebody that you consider bringing back for another season, even if he is turning 37 years old—especially after he has already made it clear that he desires not only to play for another season, but that he wants to play in Pittsburgh?
Last season, in under 450 snaps of playing time, Harrison recorded 45 tackles, to go along with 5.5 sacks. Although he didn’t force any turnovers himself in terms of intercepting a pass or forcing a fumble, he did contribute to at least one of each with his pressure.
The former Defensive Player of the Year, of course, was done with football until the Steelers needed an outside linebacker with Jarvis Jones going down for a couple of months with a wrist injury.
Harrison came in proverbially off the couch and immediately began to log playing time, even if it took him a few games to get back into football conditioning. In time, he slowly began to chip away at Arthur Moats’ snaps until suddenly it was Harrison taking the field with the starters.
By the end of the season, Harrison was logging over 50 snaps a game and rarely coming off the field, even after Jones had also returned from injury. The question that one has to wonder, however, is whether or not he can sustain a certain level of playa over the course of a full season.
Harrison was not on the team for the first three games, of course, and was splitting time for most of the rest of his tenure. Late in the season, he missed two games, which provided him valuable time to recuperate. When he returned, he was rejuvenated, and recorded his third multiple-sack game of the season.
If the Steelers are thinking about bringing Harrison back, I think that both the team and the player need to be open about the possibilities. He should not be locked in automatically as a full-time starter, or at least be counted upon to do so. He does have injury and durability concerns. He also needs to be open to playing on both sides, perhaps even starting at left outside linebacker, if the offseason breaks in such a way that that makes the most sense.