Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt injury brings light to James Harrison’s role

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: James Harrison
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 13: James Harrison /

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, T.J. Watt, exited their Week 2 game early after suffering a groin injury.

Watt’s injury isn’t something anyone wanted to see, but with the Steelers’ depth at linebacker, they were prepared to fill the position if needed this season. However, it wasn’t with the player many expected to see on the field as the backup.

When Watt left, the name many were prepared to see was James Harrison. The 39-year-old veteran was competing for the starting job this offseason, and although he didn’t win it, many believed he’d still be a major contributor this season.

Well, with Watt sidelined, Pittsburgh decided to play Anthony Chickillo on the right side. After a solid performance in Week 1 filling in for Bud Dupree, the Steelers must have seen enough to give Chickillo the first man in on both sides.

This could be the beginning of the end to James Harrison. After playing less than ten snaps in Week 1 and being the third string backer this week, it appears that Harrison’s role on this team is shrinking by the minute.

Depending on how long Watt is sidelined, Harrison could see an increase in reps over the next few weeks, but will likely be nothing serious. From the way it appears, Chickillo will be the starter until Watt is ready to return and Harrison will remain the backup with limited time.

Die-hard Steelers fans have been through a long ride with Harrison. At times, he was one of the most exciting player on the field. But, at 39, it’s harder to be as explosive as he once was, and in today’s league, it’s nearly impossible to rush the edge without a quick first step.

This doesn’t mean his career is over, but for right now, we can assume he’s headed to the end of a long and successful time in Pittsburgh.

No one wants to see Harrison ride the bench, but maybe, he just doesn’t have the ability to contribute like he once did.

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No matter what his role is, though, Harrison’s career will forever be remembered for his jaw clenching sacks, Super Bowl touchdown, and weight lifting videos that are inhuman. Not for his final years in the NFL.