Let’s just state this with abundant clarity: the Pittsburgh Steelers knew full well when they released James Harrison that his signing with a potential future playoff opponent was a distinct possibility. The fact that the New England Patriots are known to be in need of pass-rush help, or at least depth, means they would have known that he may end up signing with them.
Having known that and still choosing to release him anyway means that they are not worried about what he can supply them on or off the field. If they were so afraid of Harrison potentially signing with the Patriots, they would have found somebody else to release. His being in New England will not be the catalyst of a potential future loss.
Let’s keep in mind, right off the bat, that the Steelers have one of the top offensive lines in the entire league. They have only given up something like 20 sacks on the season, and frankly, many of those have been on Ben Roethlisberger. He has taken a sack on just 3.6 percent of his dropbacks, the second-lowest rate of his career, behind the 2016 season.
They have already faced, and handled, a number of excellent pass-rushers this season who are, frankly, much better at this point in their careers than is the James Harrison of 40 snaps and one sack against Eric Fisher.
That is not to diminish what Harrison is still capable of doing. But he is just another guy now. He is not the 2008 guy, nor even the 2010 guy. He’s not even the 2016 guy. And now he is going to be playing in a new system that he is unfamiliar with.
Truly, what are the odds that he is going to be an impactful player for the Patriots’ defense at this stage of the game? And what is the reasoning behind the belief that the Steelers would not be able to handle him? Nobody knows him better than the people who go up in practice against him all the time.
Is it entirely possible that they may learn some small tidbits of information about the Steelers that they might not otherwise have had without signing Harrison? Sure. But it wouldn’t be anything that is enough to decide a game. After all, the Steelers are aware that he is with the Patriots. They will adapt what they plan to do accordingly. You can’t steal somebody’s signals if they know you’re doing it and have the power to do something about it.
Let’s first see if he even gets on the field for the Patriots, to begin with. Will he dress on Sunday? Will he dress in the Divisional Round? How many snaps will he get, assuming that he plays? And how will he look doing it? Will they use him only in passing situations? Is he any better than the players already at the position? They list him at the bottom of the depth chart.