At 39-years-old, James Harrison is still one of the best players on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When you can hip press 695 pounds, you can still make a Pro Bowl. Maybe that’s not proven fact, but it’s certainly a good indicator that you’re still a superstar.
James Harrison may be pushing 40-years-old, but watching his gym workouts, you’d never believe it. What he accomplishes in the weight room are things most NFL guys never do. That doesn’t mean he’s a guaranteed Pro Bowler, but if he can still push offensive tackles around they way he pushes 1,000-pound sleds, he’ll have no problem racking up sacks in 2017.
It’s been seven years since Harrison last put up 10 sacks in the season. Back when he was winning Defensive Player of the Year, and battling for the best linebacker in the NFL. Now, he’s roughly a five-sack, 40 tackle player, who’s still pushing his way around the NFL at age 39.
Now, weightlifting isn’t an indication that someone will make a Pro Bowl. You can bench press a million pounds and not record a single tackle during the season. What Harrison has around him, though, combined with his insane offseason workouts may be enough to get him back to his prime playing days.
By drafting T.J. Watt, the Pittsburgh Steelers added a huge piece to their rebuilding defense. The Wisconsin star was a sack machine in his sophomore year for the Badgers, racking up 11.5 sacks in 2016.
Watt is assumed to work behind Harrison, but with the two coming off the edge, teams will constantly have to gameplan for a ridiculous pass rush. With Bud Dupree on the other side, opponents will be facing one of the deadliest pass rush defenses in the NFL.
Watt takes some of the attention away from Harrison, but when the Pittsburgh star really shined was during the Steelers’ great days of hard-nosed defense. When Lawrence Timmons and Larry Foote dominated the inside, and LaMarr Woodley was just as good on the opposite side as Harrison was.
This year, Pittsburgh could return to those glory days. With Ryan Shazier becoming a Pro Bowler last season, Dupree making strides this offseason to be one of the league’s top linebackers, and Watt and Vince Williams both strong candidates to make an impact, this linebacking core is one of the NFL’s best.
When teams play Pittsburgh, they’ll no longer have to worry about one or two guys on defense. All 11 players will be accounted for, taking a lot of focus away from Harrison. With less attention, he’s free to play one-on-one with tackles, and despite being 39, he can easily outmatch most of them.
Instead of five sacks, Harrison could be looking more towards 10. Combine that with what should be a much better defensive year overall for Pittsburgh, and the NFL could take notice. If he can exceed 40 tackles, and finish somewhere near 60-70, the Pro Bowl is almost guaranteed.
Plus, he’s 39-years-old. If you’re pushing 40 and putting up a 70 tackle, 10 sack season, you’re making a Pro Bowl. When they’re sitting there drafting their teams, you’re going to be one of the favorites just because of how impressive it is to have a season that good at that age.
Harrison has put in the work his entire career to be where he is today. There’s little doubt he’s going to excel in 2017, especially with the team he now has around him.
The Pro Bowl is in sight. For a 39-year-old linebacker, that’s almost never been a possibility, but for Harrison, it’s almost expected watching his offseason workouts.