Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did his best to keep the 37-year-old James Harrison off the practice field and out of pads during the first two weeks of training camp, but he has made his impact felt ever since putting the jersey back on earlier this week, and we saw that manifest itself last night in the form of a textbook, vintage strip sack against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That was certainly the highlight for the former Defensive Player of the Year, who finished the game, in limited snaps, with three totals tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble. But if there was any doubt remaining, Harrison made it clear that he can still play at a high level.
And that he is committed to doing so out of the starting blocks this time around.
Last season, of course, Harrison was not on a roster at the beginning of the season, having just elected to retire after failing to land a contract. But he was coaxed out of retirement by Tomlin and his former teammates after a need arose with the injury to Jarvis Jones in the third game of the season.
It took the now aging linebacker a few weeks to play his way into shape, but by the time he did, he overtook the starting position and notched 5.5 sacks in a rotational role at his familiar old right outside linebacker position. And he played the run as well as he rushed the passer.
There will be no such conditioning curve necessary this time around for the former All-Pro outside linebacker, as he has been a part of the team for nearly the entire offseason after being inked to a two-year contract prior to the 2015 NFL Draft. He has spent his time not only getting himself in excellent shape, but coaching his teammates in how to get the most out of their workouts as well.
As always, however, Harrison is a player who will lead best by example, and his first-quarter sack was one that is worthy of film study. No doubt we will do just that later in the week in a more elaborate analysis.
His rip under left tackle Luke Joeckel was a classic move from his repertoire, and his tomahawk chop to separate man from ball, arm raised ominously in the air behind a quarterback none the wiser, was certainly reminiscent of many other fine memories from his impressive career.
Harrison played just the one series. The reality is that he doesn’t need many reps under his belt to get himself ready. He has over a decade of experience in the league, and even his position coach acknowledges that there’s not much to teach him.
He may not play a lot the rest of this preseason. After all, there are other linebackers the Steelers want to get a look at. Many thought that if he was signed it would come after training camp anyway. But you can rest assured that he will be ready to go on opening day. He looked ready for it last night.