The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on 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 dress on Sunday?
It is in a way—a sentimental way, to be specific—quite perplexing to even be asking this question, but as the Steelers head closer and closer to what should resemble a fully healthy team for once, we are beginning to reach the time when we have to answer the question of whether or not James Harrison needs a helmet on game day.
That day could be tomorrow, depending on what the injury news churns out. With both T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree expected to be back, the Steelers will have all nine linebackers healthy. They were able to dress all nine of them in week two, but they had other injuries, as one to tight end Vance McDonald, that allowed them to do so.
It won’t be so easy this week. Of the five players listed as questionable, two are offensive linemen. Their helmets would invariably be given to other players in their position group. Two are safeties. If one doesn’t play, Brian Allen probably gets the helmet, as he did in week two. If both don’t, they will activate Jacob Hagen from the practice squad.
The only other player on the injury report is…Harrison himself, who has been dealing with an illness. But consider the basic nature of the seven-man inactive list. When you have nine offensive linemen, two will not dress. Among six defensive linemen, one will not dress. The third-string quarterback will not dress.
That is four of the seven inactives right there. Then you add in the position groups with excess. Six wide receivers and six cornerbacks. One of them will not dress from each unless an injury at another position allows them to.
And then we get to linebacker. Outside linebacker is the heavy side with five players. Watt and Dupree are the starters. Anthony Chickillo actually has the most snaps from the group. Arthur Moats is getting his time on special teams.
Harrison is the logical choice to sit in a reality in which the starting outside linebackers are playing 90-95 percent of the snaps, on a fully healthy roster.