When you’re in your 30s, when the end of your career is visible on the horizon, the stats don’t matter. The role doesn’t matter. It’s all about winning.
That’s the mentality DeAngelo Williams and James Harrison have adopted in Pittsburgh. For Williams, it’s for that chance to win his first Super Bowl. For Harrison, the motivation to decide to return for another season when he could’ve easily, justifiably, walked away – and at one point in his career, did.
That’s why when Williams is asked about stats or his role, he deflects. That’s exactly what he did talking to the NFL Network’s Deion Sanders.
Sanders posed the hypothetical of what Williams would do if he was leading the league in rushing when Le’Veon Bell returns which, oh by the way, happens after this week.
“I want to win, Deion. Stats to me does not matter. All that matters is I want a Super Bowl ring, Deion. I want to do what you did when you were playing.”
Williams has been unequivocal in recognizing Bell is the bellcow when he returns. He repeated that to Sanders and after the win, told the media the same. His comment via Steelers.com.
“LBell is so dynamic when he plays the game, hell, I don’t want him to come off the field.”
Speaking to Sanders, Williams made it clear he’ll do whatever it takes to hoist a Lombardi.
“I’m going to do whatever my coach needs me to do. Whether that’s take a hit, be a receiver, be a running back, be the water boy, be the errand boy, take out the trash, whatever it’s going to take for me to get the Super Bowl, because there’s one thing I know about winning a Super Bowl. Nobody ever forgets you.”
Mike Tomlin was asked about Williams’ comments and the contribution of James Harrison, with his do-whatever-the-team needs me mentality, in today’s press conference.
“James is a unique guy. Unique in a lot of ways. He’s still a formidable guy whether we ask him to rush or play in some underneath coverage. He’s a team player. He’s back and playing because he wants to win. He knows they’re not just words, he lives it. He does whatever it is we ask him to do.”
That’s led to him making two plays in coverage the last two weeks. His end zone interception of Kirk Cousins in Week One and, more importantly, his forced fumble of Tyler Boyd to clinch the Steelers’ victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Though he’ll always be remembered as a pass rusher, in Keith Butler’s scheme, the linebackers drop into coverage a lot. It’s part of the defense and something Harrison has embraced, even if he doesn’t necessarily excel.
Tomlin had similar to say about Williams.
“It’s real. He’s been really consistent about expressing that mentality since we brought him in on a free agent visit. I think that’s one of the things that made him such an attractive free agent. He came here with one agenda and that was to win a World Championship. It’s the same agenda James Harrison continues to have as he continues to play.
When you have guys that have achieved personal accolades like DeAngelo, 10,000 all plus yards, and James Harrison, whatever accolades he hadn’t got, that list is probably smaller than the accolades he’s gotten, they play and they play for the right reasons. They’re positive examples of what team ball is about. Good leaders the young guys can and do follow.”
Neither are playing like their age suggests they should. But their maturity and leadership are practically Mr. Miyagi-like. It’s that foundation of a singular mindset, winning a Super Bowl, and the Steelers have the right talent and people to do that in 2016.