When it comes to the NFL, nothing is more telling about a team’s track record of success than how many Super Bowls are in the trophy case. For many teams, like the Cleveland Browns or Philadelphia Eagles, there are none. No matter the case, there is one team that is the gold standard for it, and that’s the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Six Lombardi Trophies have been hoisted, more than any other franchise, including 4 in a 6 year span in the 1970s that’s often debated as the greatest dynasty in the history of the league. In fact, the team has so many players residing in the Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio that it likely deserves it’s own wing.
One position on the team is held in a higher regard than others though, and that’s due to the nature of the fan base, which is blue-collar and tough, just like the city. When someone plays linebacker for the Steelers, there are immediately sky-high expectations, and often times that player has a hard time living up to them. That’s not their fault, but due to the amount of standouts at the position over the years.
On November 9, 2003, outside linebacker Jason Gildon etched his name into Steelers’ lore when he broke the all-time career sacks record, passing the 73.5 previously held by L.C. Greenwood, a defensive end who starred on the team’s Super Bowls of the 70s. Gildon set the record in 151 games, while Greenwood set it in 174 games.
“Any time you have the opportunity to put your name alongside the likes of L.C. Greenwood and Mean Joe Greene, it’s a great accomplishment,” Gildon said, according to Bob Hersom of newsok.com.
As it stands, Gildon sits atop the Mt. Rushmore of Steelers’ sack artists, with 77 career sacks in the black and gold. However, there is one current player who is chomping at his heels, and if there was ever a fan favorite and someone more deserving of owning the record, it’s James Harrison.
After all, it is Harrison who already owns the single-season sacks record, with the 16 he posted in 2008, along with the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award.
“People said I couldn’t do this or couldn’t do that,” Harrison said, according to ESPN.com. “I was too short, too slow. Basically, I play and prepare myself in the offseason with the thoughts of what people said I couldn’t do.”
Nicknamed “Silverback” for his brute strength and complete disregard for the safety of others, he is a player from a different time, and would’ve been perfectly at home playing in the era of a Jack Lambert or Jack Tatum. Basically, he’s an old school player.
Re-signed out of retirement this past season when a rash of injuries struck, it was clear he still had some fuel left in that 37-year old body, as he notched 5.5 sacks down the stretch and helped the team back to the postseason after a two-year hiatus.
Almost immediately, he added a swagger and an aura back to a defense sorely needing an identity, and this past offseason, the free agent was re-signed by Pittsburgh to a new two-year deal. More than likely, he’ll call it quits after his farewell tour in 2015, but it begs the question as to he can unseat Gildon from the franchise sacks throne.
He currently sits at 69.5 so he’ll only need 8 more. But with outside linebackers coach Joey Porter saying he may limit Harrison to around 25 snaps a game, it remains to be seen how it will unfold. More than likely, he’ll have a larger role than Porter is letting on, and he usually comes up biggest in the most crucial games. He’s made a particular habit of wrecking game plans for a quarterback who plays for the Baltimore Ravens named Joe Flacco. Odds are, if he can remain injury-free, and continue playing at the level he did last season, the Steel City will indeed have a new undisputed sack champ.