One of the biggest position battles the Pittsburgh Steelers face this offseason is outside linebacker.
After one preseason game, rookie sensation, T.J. Watt has earned the starting job at outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. No surprises considering Watt looked like his older brother J.J. only three players into his first career game.
To start the season, James Harrison, the Steelers’ all-time leading sacker, will play a “relief role.” At 39-years-old, it’s not shocking that Pittsburgh has decided to allow Watt to begin developing on the field.
By no means, though, does this mean Harrison isn’t going to contribute in 2017. In fact, even though Harrison is said only to be playing a small role this season, he’s not. Because when a team has two of the best outside linebackers in the NFL, they make sure they always have a hot hand on the field.
Watt may dominate from day one, but there are going to be times when he’s just not effective. Next season, how the Steelers handle that will be totally different, but right now, the best option isn’t to let Watt deal with adversity. It’s to allow Harrison to turn momentum around.
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Think about it like this – the offense has one left tackle, who will likely play most of the game. The Steelers have two outside linebackers who can keep a ton of stamina all four quarters if they work as a unit. That means while Watt and Harrison are continuing to bring 100% every play, the opposing left tackle is wearing down.
It just makes sense. You’re not going to leave James Harrison, who at 39-years-old is still one of the scariest players in the NFL, on the sidelines week after week. Instead, you’re going to make sure the defense always has a strong pass rusher on the field. When Watt isn’t doing it, the team doesn’t need to act like they’re losing a battle on the pass rush. They just need to give the other of the two a chance to turn it around.
James Harrison will play. Joey Porter, Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler aren’t going to just let him sit there all season long when he still has a lot of play left in him.
Yes, Watt should start, and should get the bulk of the workload. But by the end of a four quarter game, Harrison should have contributed enough to make his presence felt. Because with two stars at one position, the Pittsburgh Steelers have an opportunity to make opposing left tackles’ lives very miserable.