The Pittsburgh Steelers first OTA practice of 2015 took place on Tuesday and for the first time since he became a full-time starter, veteran outside linebacker James Harrison was relegated to taking reps with the second-team unit.
“Yeah, I’m behind Jarvis [Jones],” Harrison said, according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com . “He’s starting. I’m rolling in with the 2s. So it’s what it is.”
While Harrison might currently be Jones’s backup on the depth chart, it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to push the former first-round selection for his spot over the course of the offseason.
“My objective every year is to start … nobody wants to come in and be a backup their whole career,” Harrison said after practice. “So we’ll play it out and see what rolls out. That’s it.”
During his draft press conference, outside linebackers coach Joey Porter let be known that Harrison will no longer be allowed to play every down on defense because of his age.
“Harrison is going to be a better player for us if I keep his snap count down to 25 snaps,” Porter said last month. “I’ll get the best James Harrison I can out of him instead of trying to make him play like he was 25 (years old and) 60 snaps a game.
“He knows where he is. I know where he is. We have that relationship that he knows. I told him already, the James Harrison [of before] is over. He’s going to play his role and his role is going to be effective. He knows what we’re asking out of him and he’s going to be ready to answer the bell.”
Harrison, who signed a two-year contract with the Steelers in March, has been training this offseason with several of the other young linebackers, including Jones, out in Arizona. The former undrafted free agent out of Kent State turned 37 earlier this month.
Last year, Harrison came out of retirement after Jones suffered a long-term wrist injury during the third game of the season and he proceeded to register 5.5 sacks in the 11 regular-season games that he played in.
It will be good for Jones to have Harrison pushing him all offseason and it will mark the first time that the two have been able to work with each other on the summer practice fields since Jones was drafted.