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: When will we see James Harrison back on the field?
This has been quite a popular question, even in the midst of a six-game winning streak for the Steelers. While not particularly surprising—James Harrison is rightly one of the most popular Steelers of the last couple of generations—it does seem a fairly inconsequential pondering when you considering how well the team is doing overall.
Because of his inability to contribute on special teams, the 39-year-old outside linebacker has spent most of the season on the inactive list, perplexing many of his fans who have found themselves wondering why they bothered to re-sign him at all. The obvious answer is, of course, depth. And they didn’t have T.J. Watt when they re-signed him.
Over the course of the past few games, Harrison has been given some questionable injury designations, this week not practicing due to a supposed knee injury, yet none of these ailments have seemed to hinder his superhuman workout regimen. At this point, he is only continuing his employment with the team in order to fund his training.
With Watt and Bud Dupree logging nearly all of the team’s snaps this season—just as outside linebackers coach Joey Porter predicted that they would at the start of the season—and Anthony Chickillo mopping up most of the rest, with Arthur Moats getting a handful as well, Harrison simply hasn’t been needed.
Sure, he had the big sack against the Chiefs several weeks ago that closed out the game. I don’t think anybody is disputing that he is capable of playing. The question is more about whether or not the team needs him to play, and it’s hard to say that they have.
Still, even the coaches have talked about the time for Harrison to play coming late in the year when the weather gets colder and in the postseason, where he has experience in such pressure situations. Is that time actually going to come? Or will he only play in the event of injuries?