James Harrison Sidelined While Steelers Ride The Hot Hand

For the first time in a long time, James Harrison didn’t play a single snap in Sunday’s win over the Minnesota Vikings, even with T.J. Watt missing most of the game. Instead, the team used Anthony Chickillo and Bud Dupree almost exclusively. But with the positive results those two have achieved, Mike Tomlin didn’t want to rock the boat.

“Wanted to leave the hot hand in there,” Tomlin said during today’s press conference. “Chickillo being the hot hand.”

That’s after Chickillo seized on his Week One opportunity, notching a pair of sacks while Dupree was sidelined. Dupree picked up his first of the season against the Vikings and this year’s pass rush is already light years ahead of where it was a year ago.

Pittsburgh has nine sacks through two weeks, tied for second most in the NFL. Through two weeks in 2016, they had just one. And if you remember, that was a “lukewarm” sack of Arthur Moats tagging up a sliding Andy Dalton.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But Tomlin acknowledged Harrison’s time will come.

“We appreciate James. We know what James is capable of. James will ready himself. There will be a time in the season where we’ll call on his services and he’ll deliver and deliver in a big way. Much like he did at the latter part of 2016.”

All five of Harrison’s sacks last season came in either November or December, becoming the team’s all-time sack leader. He had another 2.5 sacks in the playoffs.

Tomlin said the Steelers would continue to be unpredictable in how they deploy their pass rushers. In part due to the “gamesmanship” nature of the league, these are state secrets, and the continuation of watching relatively young pass rushers like Chickillo, Dupree, and Watt progress, their play determining how the depth chart shakes out.

Either way, it’s a good problem to have. If those three play like they have, Harrison will be quality depth. If there’s an issue, the team has a 39 year old freak waiting to step in.

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