After starting a series that looked at players that consistently dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers, I thought it would be a nifty idea to switch around my focus. Instead of focusing on players that have shredded the Steelers, let’s remember the good times and look at current or former Steelers that have dominated their division rivals. This series will be named after Gamebreaker mode from the NFL Street video game series. Activating Gamebreaker made players nearly unstoppable and there is no doubt that these Steelers were nearly unstoppable against their division rivals.
He is a man who has near superhuman levels of strength. He is a man who was nearly immune to the effects of father time and he is a man who loved to feast on the quarterbacks of the Baltimore Ravens.
Enter James Harrison.
To truly appreciate Harrison’s performance record, one must understand the context of his origin. An undrafted free agent, Harrison was cut more than a few times early in his career. In fact, he was even a member of the Ravens during 2003 though he was cut and then re-signed by the Steelers. The Ravens had a chance to develop the former outside linebacker but as fate would hold it, he would find his way back to Pittsburgh and spend the next decade inflicting pain upon the Baltimore franchise.
Including the postseason, the five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker has registered 19 career sacks in 30 career games against the Ravens. His 16 sacks against the Ravens in the regular season is the most allowed by the franchise to any player and 5.5 more than his next closest competitor (Geno Atkins, 10.5). The irony in Harrison’s performance is not only did the Ravens have a chance at claiming him as one of their own but his initial introduction into the spotlight also came against the Baltimore franchise.
Many can remember exactly where they were on November 5 2007. For some it was just another Monday but for the National Football League, this was known as the James Harrison introduction party. In a Monday Night Football matchup between the Steelers and Ravens, Harrison had a performance for the ages as he recorded 3.5 sacks, six quarterback hits, three forced fumbles and an interception as the Steelers battered the Ravens 38-7.
James Harrison put on the greatest defensive performance I've ever seen. 2007 vs Ravens, 38-7 win on Monday Night.
6 QB hits
An all-timer. pic.twitter.com/2mON7MKPan
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) July 19, 2019
Surely a performance like that only comes around once in a blue moon? Assumptions like that would prove to be wrong as multi-sack performances against the Ravens were very common for the former Steelers’ outside linebacker.
Harrison has 19 multi-sack contests (two or more sacks) under his belt and six of those have come against the Ravens. He has also recorded four or more quarterback hits in five career contests with three of those coming against the Baltimore franchise.
What makes Harrison’s brilliance even more remarkable is that he had a late start. The former Steelers’ outside linebacker did not become a full-time starter until his fifth season in the league. Harrison’s numbers are not a product of volume but a decade long period of dominance from 2007-2017.
During this decade, Harrison played in 23 career games vs the Ravens and all 19 of his career sacks came during this span. Whether it be Steve McNair or Joe Flacco, Baltimore quarterbacks likely circled the date of their matchups against the Steelers knowing that a beatdown from Harrison was likely to occur. During this 23-game span, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year winner also recorded a staggering 33 quarterback hits and you can be sure that Flacco and McNair felt every single one of them.
Unlike other divisional foes like the Cincinnati Bengals or Cleveland Browns, the Ravens were not easy pickings either. The team has consistently put together a quality roster and challenged the Steelers for the top of the AFC North. Majority of these contests would have major playoff implications and when the stakes were the highest, Harrison rose to occasion.
Have a new series which will look at #Steelers who dominated their division rivals.
First up: James Harrison vs the Ravens
33 QB Hits
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) July 18, 2020