Who is currently the most feared player on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense? That is a question that Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com recently asked his fellow AFC North beat writers and two of the three unsurprisingly chose linebacker James Harrison.
Coley Harvey, who covers the Cincinnati Bengals, emphatically chose the 37-year-old Harrison.
“Seriously, until he finally retires, Harrison will always be the most feared and intimidating player on his team’s defense,” replied Harvey. “Maybe it’s the black visor. I dunno. Maybe it’s the 1,000 pounds he can squat. I dunno. Maybe it’s the five-mile stare he has that cuts through cameras and notepads and the chests of opposing quarterbacks. I dunno.”
Jamison Hensley, the Baltimore Ravens hack, also chose Harrison and it’s mostly because how he plays against the team he covers.
“There is something that happens to Harrison when he plays the Ravens. He somehow turns back the clock to 2004 and wreaks havoc,” replied Hensley. “The numbers tell the whole story. Since 2004, Harrison has 13 sacks against the Ravens. No other player has more than 8.5 against Baltimore over that time.”
Hensley makes sure to point out that the Ravens once cut Harrison early on in his career. Additionally, he thinks the Steelers linebacker probably didn’t take kindly to the Ravens signing linebacker Elvis Dumervil a few offseasons ago while Harrison was in Baltimore making his free-agent visit with the team.
As for Pat McManamon, who covers the Cleveland Browns, he was tempted to choose Harrison, but decided instead to go with defensive end Cameron Heyward.
“Yes, he’s an end in a 3-4 scheme, but from that spot he had 7 1/2 sacks and played well enough to be ranked as the sixth-best end in a 3-4 scheme, per ProFootballFocus.com,” explains McManamon. “Heyward also has been around long enough to understand the Steelers way.”
Personally, I would go with Harrison as well and that’s not a slight at Heyward, who would probably be my second choice. Harrison appears to be a man on a mission this offseason to prove that he still belongs in the starting lineup over former first-round draft Jarvis Jones and that he doesn’t need his snaps monitored.
Harrison needs eight sacks in 2015 to become the Steelers all-time franchise leader in that stat and it certainly would be nice to see the bulk of them come against AFC North teams. Until he finally walks away from the game for good, he should without question be considered the team’s most feared player on the defensive side of the football.