Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison hasn’t been allowed to practice with pads on so far during training camp, but even so, don’t be surprised if he opens the 2015 regular season as the team’s starting right outside linebacker.
Thursday, Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler was asked by Tim Benz of Trib Live Radio if the best case scenario this year is to play the younger outside linebackers and mix in the two veterans along the way.
“No, I’d do it the other way,” Butler said when asked about deferring to the young guys. “To be honest with you, we tried to do it the other way a couple years ago with Jarvis [Jones], and it was tough for him. So, we’ll put the older guys in and let those other guys play a lot and see how things go for a while. And we’re hopeful that our young guys will come along and be the top guys. And we’re going to play all of them because we don’t want them out there dying on the vine on us rushing the passer all of the time.”
So, that means Butler’s thinking is to start Harrison across from Arthur Moats, right?
“Well, the thinking is that we are going to go in with what we think is best and if the young guys can handle the mental part of it, then that’s what we will do. If not, then the older guys will be in there,” Butler said. “Either way, both of the older guys are going to be playing a lot. We hope to be able to rotate them and give them an equal number of snaps, if we can.”
I have noted several times throughout the offseason that I won’t be surprised to see Harrison start over Jarvis Jones when the team opens the 2015 season against the New England Patriots. Why? He deserves it and he’s more accomplished against the run in addition to still being the better pass rusher. Until Jones proves that he’s the better player in practice and games, he’s the one that needs to be mixed in on the right side.
We all know that Harrison isn’t going to play the full amount of snaps in games moving forward. We’ve also known that if healthy, Jones will also play quite a bit in his third year as well. Mark it down that Harrison will be the starter, however, and I firmly believe that he should be.
We all have known for quite a while that Moats would be the starter on the left side and that at some point during the season that rookie Bud Dupree would be mixed in. However, don’t expect them to rush Dupree along like they did Jones.