If I told you that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense would record 15 sacks through the first quarter of the season—which I believe as of the time of this writing leads the league—and that none of those 15 sacks would have come from James Harrison, would you have believed it?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because that is where the Steelers are currently after they brought down Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco four times on the road—oh yeah, three of their four games have been on the road, I should have probably mentioned that, where sacks are harder to come by.
Several players already have multiple sacks on the season. Both Cameron Heyward and Anthony Chickillo have three, while T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Javon Hargrave all have two. Actually, Dupree has one and a half. After yesterday, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, and Vince Williams have all recorded one, while Stephon Tuitt has the other half of Dupree’s second sack.
Harrison has only played seven snaps all season, and I’m not certain, but I think he only has one or two actual pass-rush attempts in there. He dropped into coverage at least twice and saw some time defending against running plays.
Yesterday, he was not even active for the game, the first time for which he was a (presumed) healthy scratch since prior to the 2007 season, at least, when he became a starter during Mike Tomlin’s first season in Pittsburgh.
I say presumed healthy because Harrison did battle an illness during the week leading up to the game, and did not practice on Friday. He was listed as questionable, but it is important to remember that there is no probable designation any longer. Martavis Bryant and others were also ill, yet played.
I am certain that there will be many who remain in denial of the situation, but the truth of the matter is that, as the roster is currently composed, the chances are good that Harrison will spend most games inactive going forward.
For the moment, the Steelers continue to move forward with Anthony Chickillo as their third outside linebacker, but even if he should be surpassed, he will still have to be active because he is a key cog on special teams.
In order for Harrison to dress, barring injuries, Chickillo will likely have to struggle on defense, which would force them to promote Harrison to the top reserve outside linebacker spot, and would likely push Arthur Moats and his approximately six or so snaps per game on punt coverage to the bench.
Harrison took a shot at his lack of playing time during the week, and he is certainly entitled to feel the way that he does about the situation, but the special teams has frankly been good so far this year because they have not been ignoring it. His lack of contributions in that regard are making it difficult for him to get a helmet.