2017 Camp Questions: Who Starts At OLB And What Does It Mean?

The journey toward the 2017 season is now in full swing with the Pittsburgh Steelers having reported to Latrobe for their annual training camp at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their camps for over half a century now.

This is surely the time more than any other in which we find ourselves full of questions that we are looking to get answered, and this also tends to be the best time to get answers to those questions that have been building up over the course of time since the 2016 season ended.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the training camp and the preseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: Will James Harrison ‘start’ tomorrow’s game, and what does that say about the season opener?

A simple question, the first half of which we will get a clear answer to tomorrow during the Steelers’ third preseason game. Head Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday that 99th-year immortal veteran James Harrison would make his preseason debut in the game against the Colts. He didn’t exactly specify in what capacity he would be used.

In referring to a group of a small handful of essential starters who will be seeing their first and only playing time, Tomlin did use the phrase “playing our first wave”, and that the extent of their playing time will be played by ear.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Harrison is going to ‘start’ the game over T.J. Watt, and no matter who ‘starts’ the game, it doesn’t necessarily bare direction resemblance to what we are going to see come September 10 when the Steelers open their regular season schedule against the Browns.

Watt, their rookie first-round draft pick, has played extensively over the course of the first two preseason games, starting on the right side of the defense, but he has also logged many snaps—perhaps the majority of his snaps—on the left side.

He has shown well against the pass in the first preseason game, and did some good things against the run in the second. Perhaps the Steelers would like to continue to see him produce a complete game before they choose to give him the lion’s share of snaps.

Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said that Harrison would be a relief pitcher behind their starters. Tomlin said that Harrison would play as many snaps as he can handle. It’s unlikely that both are true, and would require that Harrison can only handle relief work when the starters need a breather.

Perhaps we start to get an answer to the question in tomorrow’s game, but we ultimately won’t know—perhaps the team doesn’t yet know—until the real games start being played.

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