Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made it clear last week that he really doesn’t enjoy answering questions related to the way he handles the rotation of his outside linebackers. Even so, that doesn’t mean the media isn’t going to keep asking him about that very topic.
During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin was asked if the way outside linebacker James Harrison plays in a given game forces him to alter the percentage of snaps that receives.
“It may,” said Tomlin. “You’ve got to acknowledge that he had a big football game, but we all know that James is capable of that. I just like the overall trajectory of the group and we acknowledge that sometimes we’re going to get into a stadium and someone’s going to have a hot hand, or display a hot hand, or a physical matchup is going to lend itself to someone’s skill set versus some else’s skill set.
“That rotation is due to change due to a myriad of things. That’s why I’m not interested in pinning myself down and talking about the rotation in the manner in which we beat over the head pretty good here in the last six months.”
In the Steelers Sunday night win over the Indianapolis Colts, Harrison recorded 3 sacks in the fourth quarter. In fact, he and fellow outside linebacker Arthur Moats were both on the field together for the team’s final 22 defensive snaps of the game. Those snaps, of course, came at the expense of young outside linebackers Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree, who each played all of 21 snaps in the game.
Harrison’s 3 sacks Sunday night now has him at 5 on the season and 76.5 for his career. 74.5 of those sacks have come as a member of the Steelers which now means he only needs 3 more to break the franchise record that currently belongs to Jason Gildon.
Even though Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter said prior to the season that Harrison would likely have his snaps monitored, the 37-year-old outside linebacker currently leads his positional group in total snaps played this season with 435 and that’s even with him missing one game this season due to a minor knee injury.
While I applaud Harrison’s hot hand Sunday night, it certainly would be nice to Jones and Dupree both catch fire in a game to close out the regular season. Additionally, Harrison should probably be rested a little more later in blowout games, assuming the Steelers can deliver a few more of those over the course of the next four weeks.