I think it’s fair to say that James Harrison had some big games for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the years. And I also think it would be an accurate assessment if observed that many of those games occurred against the Baltimore Ravens, who were the Steelers’ biggest rival and direct competition during Harrison’s time.
One might say that he has been their nemesis at times, their team-killer. Pro Football Focus would agree, as they named Harrison just that over the period of time in which they have covered the NFL. He graded out as the highest of all players over that span who have played against the Ravens.
“No one got after Joe Flacco and the Ravens quite like Harrison over his career”, Ben Linsey wrote. “He notched 453 pass-rushing snaps against the Ravens in the PFF era, which is roughly a season’s worth of work, and he turned those opportunities into a league-high 80 quarterback pressures and 20 sacks — nine more sacks than the next closest defender. Those pressures were often high-impact plays, as evidenced by Harrison’s 92.0 pass-rushing grade against Baltimore”.
Harrison played 30 games against the Ravens over the course of his career, though of course that includes the years before he was a starter, as well as the year that he was with the Cincinnati Bengals. He recorded three or more sacks in a game three times against them, with six multi-sack games in all.
And he was still performing until the end. In his final season as a meaningful contributor in 2016, he played the Ravens twice. He recorded 11 tackles in one game, with another five in the other game, plus a pair of sacks on top of that.
Harrison also forced nine fumbles against the Ravens, including that ridiculous breakout game in 2007 when he forced three fumbles to go along with 10 tackles, three and a half sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, and a fumble recovered.
Frankly, there aren’t many Steelers players who have dominated a single opponent quite like that over the years…though interestingly enough, PFF did name one Steelers player as the nemesis of another team: quarterback Ben Roethlisberger against the New England Patriots. That might read as a head-scratcher, given his 4-8 win-loss record.
“Roethlisberger comes out as the top-graded player against the Patriots despite being just 4-8 against Brady and company. The tape shows, however, that the subpar record hasn’t been his fault”, Linsey writes. “Big Ben’s touchdown to interception ratio of 18-to-10 doesn’t overly impress, but his big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio of 28:8 is much more impressive. The discrepancy indicates that luck hasn’t been on his side in the matchup, but that doesn’t detract from him playing at a high level”.
Roethlisberger has played 12 games against the Patriots. He has thrown for over 300 yards five times, once hitting 400, and has thrown multiple touchdowns in nine of those games, including as many as four—in a 55-31 loss in 2013. He has never posted a passer rating below 75; in fact, most of the time it was above 90, twice hitting 100 or better.