During the Pittsburgh Steelers’ regular season opener, they were without one of their starting outside linebackers, Bud Dupree, who was sitting out the game with a bothersome shoulder. James Harrison played four snaps.
During the Steelers’ home opener yesterday, they lost T.J. Watt their other starting outside linebacker, to a groin injury during the first half. James Harrison did not even play at all.
I don’t think this is really what he signed up for, to be perfectly honest. But ultimately it doesn’t really matter what he wants as long as the doesn’t pull a Lawrence Timmons and go AWOL. The fact that the Steelers can have a talent like his in reserve just sitting on the bench is actually fantastic.
The fact of the matter is that both of their starting outside linebackers, Watt and Dupree, have already looked impressive so far this season, in about 10 combined quarters, pairing for three sacks, two batted passes, and an interception.
The troublesome part is that both of them could be dealing with injuries, but it is as realistic as not that both of them could be back out on the field for next week’s game. Dupree seemed to play without issue through his shoulder injury yesterday, but it remains to be seen how he responds to the playing time.
As for Watt, he himself said after the game that he does not believe it to be serious, but that he and the team will know more about his situation in the coming days.
Even if one of them misses the next game, or is limited, however, that clearly does not guarantee the former Defensive Player of the Year playing time, as made obvious by the fact that he has only played four snaps, and the Steelers have only had both of them on the field together for less than two of their eight quarters played on the year.
That is largely due to the fact that third-year outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo has played well when called upon. He started in the season opener in place of Dupree and registered a pair of sacks, and he took over for Watt on the opposite side when he left yesterday’s game.
With Watt out, when the Steelers needed a third outside linebacker to take a couple of snaps, it was Arthur Moats who was called into action, as well. Both Chickillo and Moats had strong preseasons, though so did Harrison.
I do wonder what five-time Pro Bowler is thinking right now, but he’s not going to comment on it publicly. He left the locker room early before speaking to any of the media, and he would not answer any questions on it even if he were asked.
Still, there may come a time late in the season when the Steelers are going to need him, for whatever reason. And when his name is called, there is no doubt in my mind that he is going to continue to perform.