The 2017 season has not shaped up in any way that former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison had envisioned. I think that much at least goes without saying. In the middle of the previous season, he was still pretty resolved to call it a career afterward. But as the season progressed and he felt good and was having success, he ended up signing a two-year deal with Pittsburgh in the offseason.
By that point, Harrison had not only passed Jarvis Jones on the depth chart, but became a full-time starter, something that the Steelers simply had not had over the course of the past couple of years, preferring to use a rotation due to a lack of confidence in any one player to hold the position down.
So when we look ahead to the season finale and see that Harrison has only played 40 snaps on the year, or less than he would play in a typical game by the end of last season, it is stating the obvious that we are talking about something that the 39-year-old did not sign up for.
Of course he said as much himself a couple of weeks ago, literally. Had he known that he would be sitting on the bench in most games and frequently not even dressing for a game, he said that he would have signed with some other team.
That is not something that you want to hear one of your players saying, regardless of whether or not he has a legitimate gripe. Whether or not his gripe is even legitimate is debatable. He re-signed before the draft; before the acquisition of T.J. Watt; before the rookie continually exceeded all expectations.
Harrison is not the future; Watt is. And Watt is also the present, compiling a healthy stat line for a rookie season, and more importantly exhibiting his versatility as a rusher, run defender, and coverage player. His scheme versatility is much-coveted in the Steelers’ defense today.
Yesterday, after signing with the Patriots, Harrison’s agent pretty much reiterated what his client had previously said. “His goal was to play football, not to sit somewhere”, he told Chris Adamski. “I think James was very, very agreeable, obviously, to being a part-time player. That wasn’t an issue. It’s just that the way it ended up, he wasn’t playing at all”.
Harrison had spent most of the past three seasons functioning as a part-time, rotational player in the Steelers’ defense anyway, so there is no reason to believe that that wouldn’t continue to be true, even though he did say during training camp that he would like to see the majority of the snaps.
“I think if we all had our druthers, we would rather James stayed in Pittsburgh and played in a role that he was led to believe he’d be playing in”, he agent went on to say. “We’d all rather have not moved anywhere, but that’s not the way the NFL works”.