The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: James Harrison
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 13 Years
If James Harrison plays in 2016—and he is under contract, of course—he will do so as a 38-year-old man in his 14th NFL season after going undrafted following the 2002 NFL Draft. Not that that is necessarily an indictment after he performed quite admirably as a 37-year-old man in his 13th NFL season just last year.
But as we know, Harrison’s future is currently in limbo, pending future considerations. While the former All-Pro has expressed his desire to continue playing, he has conceded that it is dependent upon his body’s ability to allow him to get into the proper shape and retain the requisite level of endurance that will get him through yet another season.
The thoughts of his family, of course, are also a crucial piece of the puzzle in determining whether or not he will be a part of the Steelers’ puzzle as they attempt to retain a roster that, in spite of injuries, made an encouraging late-season run and was three minutes away from advancing to the AFC Championship game.
Though he was not technically a starting defensive player in 2015, Harrison did log the highest number of snaps among the four outside linebackers that the Steelers heavily rotated throughout the season, working behind, but often more frequently than, former first-round draft pick Jarvis Jones.
Considering his truncated playing time, his stats sheet is more than representative for a player at his position at his age, recording 40 tackles, five sacks, an interception, and two forced fumbles. The turnover statistics in particular are interesting because he went without one last year, and had only one in 2013. He also recorded four passes defensed on top of it as he dropped into coverage a decent amount of time.
The Steelers would obviously like Harrison to return. He was a great influence for the team’s young linebackers, and they would like him to continue to serve in that role. He showed them not only what to do off the field, but on it as well, maintaining a quality of play that few can at his age.
Of course, if he does returns, he figures to see a drop in his workload, if not simply because the team desperately needs to see Jones with a higher body of work. But Harrison will be there if the former falters, provided that he returns—and that he stays healthy.