Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter made it known during the 2015 NFL Draft that he’s talked to veteran James Harrison about his playing time for the upcoming season and he pretty much let him know that his days of playing 60 snaps a game are probably over.
“Harrison is going to be a better player for us if I keep his snap count down to 25 snaps,” Porter said. “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.”
Even though Harrison has been told that his snaps will likely be monitored this upcoming season, the 37-year-old said Tuesday following the team’s OTA practice that he believes he can still play more snaps than he might be allowed to play in 2015.
“I think I can play more than 25 snaps a game when I’m 50,” Harrison said, according to Jacob Klinger of pennlive.com.
You certainly have to respect Harrison’s beliefs and even though previous OTA practice reports stated that he’s been running with the second-team defense behind Jarvis Jones, you can’t entirely rule out the notion that he might just open the 2015 season as the starter ahead of the former first-round draft pick depending on how the rest of the offseason and preseason goes.
Harrison, as you would expect, appears to be in great shape right now thanks to him having a full offseason to work on his conditioning.
Last season he still managed to register 5.5 sacks after being signed out of retirement following the third game of the 2014 season. Being as his first two sacks of the 2014 season didn’t come until his fourth game, it makes you wonder if he might’ve been able to hit double-digits had he been on the roster the entire offseason.
In case you’re curious, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year averaged 41 snaps a game last season in the 12 games that he played in, including the playoffs.
We still have a long wait until the Steelers first game of the 2015 season, but you can count on Harrison pushing Jones hard for that starting spot and the opportunity to play more than 25 snaps a game. The Steelers coaching staff has the responsibility of putting the best 11 players on the field and if Harrison proves to be one of those 11 between now and the start of the regular-season, they should put him out there and play him until his wheels come off. And if that means sitting down Jones, so be it.
“No one wants to sit and be a backup player,” Harrison said Tuesday, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. “If that’s your mentality, you’re not in the right sport … You have roles that you play. If that’s your role, you do it the best you can.”