With Pittsburgh Steelers rookie linebacker T.J. Watt sidelined for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears with a groin injury, Anthony Chickillo not only started in his place on the right side of the defense, he also played all but three snaps. Chickllio’s heavy usage resulted in veteran outside linebacker James Harrison only playing three defensive snaps in total and that brings his year-to-date total to seven.
The Steelers defense was gouged by the Bears rushing attack on Sunday and especially via the outside zone stretch play. While Chickillo seemingly did his job well as a whole when it came to him setting the edge against outside zone runs to his side of the field, Harrison wanted to let it be known after the game that he thinks he can still effectively defend those kinds of plays as well.
“I could do that [set the edge] when I’m 60,” Harrison said, according to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Harrison indeed does have a long history of playing well against the run and especially against outside zone stretch plays. With that said, most of the success the Bears had Sunday when running the stretch play to their left side appeared mostly to be a result of poor play by the Steelers inside linebackers, defensive backs and perhaps even poor scheme.
Would Harrison really have helped the Steelers defense effectively defend those particular runs on Sunday? It’s really hard to give a definitive answer to that question right now being as we currently only have the television tape to go on. We’ll have to see what the all-22 tape shows us and even then, not knowing the exact defense that was called on every one of those plays will still make it hard to give a definitive answer.
Harrison was asked if he thought he could have helped defend better against the run on Sunday.
“I don’t know, man, I’m just doing what I’m asked. I don’t think that might have been the case [able to help] because I’m on the sidelines,” he reportedly said.
On the surface, Harrison doesn’t seem too happy about only playing seven defensive plays in the Steelers first three regular season games and not many will likely blame him for feeling that way if that’s indeed the case.
The Steelers will play the Baltimore Ravens on the road in Week 4 and it will be interesting to see if Watt is ultimately healthy enough to return to the field for that contest. If he is, and if Chickillo remains ahead of Harrison on the team’s outside linebacker depth chart this week, the veteran might not see the field any in that game.