Don’t look now, but James Harrison is back. Or at least he looked like he was back at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 45-10 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts as he recorded three sacks to bring his season total up to five, which ties Cameron Heyward for the team lead.
In doing so, the 37-year-old pass rusher moved into sole possession in franchise history of the all-time record for the most multi-sack games in a career, having done so for an 18th time, and the first time this season.
Those three sacks moved him up to 76.5 for his career, and 74.5 with the Steelers, which puts him three sacks away from surpassing Jason Gildon for the team’s all-time leading sack producer in a Steelers uniform, since sacks became an official statistic in the early 1980s.
Last year, after coming out of retirement, Harrison compiled 5.5 sacks in 11 games—the same number of games he has played this year—in the process recording three multi-sack games, as he notched them in pairs.
His three sacks against the Colts, however, was something that he had not done in a game since Week 13 of the 2011 season. In fact, he recorded three sacks in two separate games during that season, during which he missed four games due to injury and a fifth due to suspension.
It was the seventh time in his career in which he has recorded more than two sacks in a single game, establishing a career-high with 3.5 sacks during one of the most memorable nights of his career in 2007, when he also had an interception, three forced fumbles, and 10 tackles.
The first sack for Harrison last night also produced a fumble, his second of the season, but it was his first strip sack since Week 13 of the 2012 against Baltimore. His Week Six forced fumble ended a 33-game drought in which he failed to do so since the 2012 season against Dallas.
The iconic Steeler signed a two-year contract to remain with the team after originally being released in 2013 for refusing to accept a pay cut. He originally retired as a Steeler on the eve of the 2014 season, only to be signed four weeks into it due to necessity.
Harrison has been an established part of a pass rushing rotation since then, and has now accumulated 10.5 sacks working within that rotation in 22 games, which is certainly not poor production for what amounts to a part-time position.
The former Defensive Player of the Year is not technically in the starting lineup, though he is at or near the team lead at the position in terms of snaps played after last night’s game, nearing about 500 snaps played.
What the rest of the season holds for Harrison remains to be seen. It seemed as though he had been fading down the stretch, held without a statistic against the Seahawks a week earlier. Yesterday he registered seven tackles in addition to the sacks. Was it just bad line play and a bad team playing from behind, or is there something more there? The Steelers are hoping for the latter.