Through two games, the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time sack leader, James Harrison, has played a total of four snaps.
At 39-years-old, most outside linebackers would be four years retired watching games from their couch. For James Harrison, he’s been watching them from the sidelines.
While people expected Harrison’s playing time to decrease after the Steelers drafted T.J. Watt, no one saw this in his future. The team’s all-time greatest sacker has virtually been eliminated from playing time and is now the third-string outside backer on this defense.
This should come as a surprise to no one. The Steelers have a long history of pushing superstars out no matter how much play they still have in them. They did it to Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, and Brett Keisel, and now, it appears they’re doing the same to James Harrison.
Harrison is certainly nowhere near his prime, much like the rest of the players, Pittsburgh has forced out, but he still has enough gas in the tank to be a reliable and sometimes dominant backup behind their rookie superstar.
Instead, though, the team has gone young and promoted Anthony Chickillo to their second string outside backer. Don’t get it wrong, he’s been phenomenal filling in for both Watt and Bud Dupree through two games, but with Harrison on the bench, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to split reps between the two depth players.
Now, all of this could be an aggregation. Harrison could’ve told the team Sunday that he’d rather Chickillo go in or that he was okay with waiting it out and playing the third string role. But after Sunday’s win over the Vikings, Harrison was seen being one of the first to leave the stadium with his family. A sign maybe not everything is perfect in paradise.
Only time will tell whether there’s conflict between the team and Harrison. At his age, this is likely his last season in the league. So, maybe Pittsburgh is getting ready for life without him.
Either way, he’s worth some reps per week, even at 39. Depending on the significance of Watt’s injury, which doesn’t look like much, it’ll be interesting to see the role Harrison plays if Chickillo has to start a game or two.
Just don’t be surprised if there’s a major issue between Pittsburgh and their recorder holding linebacker by the end of the year.