With Tom Brady set to play in his 10th Super Bowl at the age of 43 years old, there is obviously a lot of focus right now being paid to some players who were able to maintain a high level of play deep into their careers, perhaps even pushing past the point at which it was conventionally believed one could do so at a given position.
Pro Football Focus recently created an ‘All-Old Man Team’, an obviously slightly tongue-in-cheek honor list, celebrating some of the best performances of the PFF era (when they began charting the NFL in 2006), essentially creating an All-Pro team for the aged over the course of the past 15 years.
The Pittsburgh Steelers did get one representative on the list, and that was outside linebacker James Harrison for his play at the age of 38 during the 2016 season. Harrison would play one more year, but of course we know how that went. Ben Linsey writes:
Harrison entered the NFL in 2002, but he didn’t earn a full-time starting role until 2007. As a result, much of his success occurred later in his career, including this 2016 season with Pittsburgh that came several years after his first retirement from the league.
Harrison wasn’t seeing quite as much playing time as he was at his peak, but he still played over 500 defensive snaps and put up an 89.6 PFF grade at 38 years old that ranked fifth in the NFL among all edge defenders. He delivered multiple impressive performances in the postseason with 12 combined pressures during Steelers victories against Miami and Kansas City, as well.
It would be the last season of significant action for Harrison, whose final year in 2017 spanned just 193 defensive snaps across time with both Pittsburgh and New England.
That was at the tail end of the Jarvis Jones experiment, with the Steelers annually demoting him in favor of Harrison when he once again showed that he was not up to the task of being a full-time starter. Harrison would play 15 games that year, starting seven, only resting in the final because it was meaningless.
He recorded 53 tackles that season, including nine for loss, with five sacks, nine quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, an interception, and a pass defensed, and he did that on just 587 defensive snaps, about 56 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps that year.
Old man Harrison would be brought to the Super Bowl the following season when he ended up with the New England Patriots, the duo losing, of course, but he does already have two Super Bowl rings. It’s doubtful he ends up in the Hall of Fame, but his legacy remains secured.