Aug 17, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker James Harrison (92) rushes in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
James Harrison’s own hubris might have been the biggest reason he is wearing “Halloween colors” instead of lining up at right outside linebacker for the Steelers at the moment. Despite the reportedly incentive-laden nature of the deal offered to him by the Steelers, Harrison balked at the proposed pay-cut and tried his luck on the open market instead.
As many expected, the outside has been bombarded with questions about him taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night. According to an interview on Steelers.com, Monday’s showdown between the two teams is simply “another game” on Cincinnati’s schedule to Harrison. And the only reason it has any extra meaning is because it is a divisional matchup.
While Harrison has played it cool in the media regarding his feelings towards his former team, I am sure that the former UDFA would love nothing more than to prove to the Steelers, their front office, and the front offices of the 30 other N.F.L. teams that he was worth more than he was offered during the most recent offseason period. In fact, an overly-motivated James Harrison is probably something that Pittsburgh’s make-shift offensive line does not want to see at Paul Brown Stadium.
How Harrison Can Create Pressure
Probably the worst thing for the Steelers’ offensive line and the best thing for Harrison is the fact that he will not be the Bengals’ most keyed-on pass-rusher in Monday’s game.
With Geno Atkins and a stout four-man defensive end rotation at their disposal, the Bengals will have Pittsburgh’s offensive line preoccupied throughout the evening. With all of their attention focused on the defensive line, passing situations will be the most opportune time for “Deebo” to cause significant damage. This in turn could create potential havoc-wreaking matchups for Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to play with throughout the game.
Due to the inexperienced nature and ineffectiveness of Pittsburgh’s offensive line on the edges, Harrison could be a nightmare for Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert to deal with. Both tackles will have their hands full with Cincinnati’s stout defensive ends led by Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, so adding Harrison to that mix in passing situations would only help the Bengals.
Even utilizing “Deebo” through the A and B-gaps could be an option for Zimmer and Cincinnati’s defense to take advantage of on Monday night. The Steelers have the newly-signed Fernando Velasco at center and a guy making his fifth professional start in the form of David DeCastro at right guard. Geno Atkins bullied DeCastro the last two times these teams met, so bringing Harrison through behind the Pro Bowl defensive tackle might be a great way to force Ben Roethlisberger out of the pocket.
I will be the first to admit that the Steelers need to fear Cincinnati’s defensive line and the pressure that they are capable of bringing more than anything else when they take the field two days from now. I just hope that they do not sleep on their old friend and teammate in passing situations.
While he might not be the 2008-version of himself, he still tied for the Steelers’ team lead in sacks last fall and remains a threat to rush opposing signal-callers. “Deebo” can say what he wants to the media about what this game “means” or doesn’t “mean” to him. I just will not be shocked to see Harrison playing with an extra chip on his shoulder at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday night.
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