Steelers have a long history of winning defensive player of the year awards

T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
T.J. Watt #90 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
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James Harrison #92 Steelers(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

James Harrison, LB

After another 15 year drought, along came James Harrison. He perhaps had a slow start to his NFL career. He was an undrafted free agent and later morphed into probably one of the best linebackers to ever play for the Steelers and perhaps one of the best edge rushers in the early 2000s.

Fans loved him as he had a cold stare and wreaked havoc on quarterbacks, as he finished with 84.5 career sacks. However, in 2008 he had a stellar season. He finished with 16 sacks, one interception, 101 combined tackles, 67 solo tackles, 19 tackle assists, 14 tackles for a loss, and 14 quarterback hits.

Despite having a career season, that perhaps was not won him the award. The final play before halftime of Superbowl XLIII probably won him the award. Kurt Warner led the Cardinals down the field, trying to score before the half ended.

From the Steelers’ one-yard line Kurt Warner tried hitting Anquan Boldin; however, James Harrison intercepted the ball and ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown giving the Steelers a 17-7 halftime lead. It is probably one of the top ten Superbowl highlights of all time. It helped give the Steelers their 2nd Superbowl victory in 4 seasons.

In conjunction with his Defensive Player of the Year award, fans voted Harrison to five Pro-Bowls, and he was named a two-time all-pro.