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Harrison's return to Steelers a major question mark

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When injuries occur, teams in pro sports must scramble to compensate. Sunday at Carolina, the Steelers lost two key starters on defense at linebacker, prompting James Harrison out of retirement and JP into question mode.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

You can't keep a good Silverback down.

Or in retirement apparently.

There was a terrible price for the Steelers' 37-19 dismantling of the Carolina Panthers Sunday, as linebackers Ryan Shazier and Jarvis Jones (in addition to Ike Taylor) were lost due to injury.  

Jones was placed on the league's Injured Reserve - Designated to Return list on Monday. As for Shazier, he's going to miss at least this Sunday's game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a knee sprain.

And just like that, the Silverback appeared on the Steelers horizon again.

Much like he did years ago when he burst onto the scene due to an injury, linebacker James Harrison has signed a one-year deal to come back and help his former employer in a tough spot.

That old adage 'desperate times calls for desperate measures' never rang so true.

The Steelers are in a bad spot. They suffered three injuries to starters on defense, two at their most important position. It's early in the season and, at 2-1 with three opponents staring them in the face at a combined 1-8, it's important to maintain any momentum they've gained from such a big road win.

Back to the Future anyone?

Harrison's retirement lasted all of 18 days. I'm willing to bet he knew in the back of his mind that he was just one injury away from a return to the league, possibly even with the team that helped make him famous.

But I'm not all warm-and-fuzzy inside about it. There was a reason why he 'retired' back on September 5th. It was because he wasn't good enough to make a 53-man roster.

At 36, how can he be? He doesn't have the speed he once did and his veteran skills will only take him so far on the field. I get the 'heart' factor and all, but to think Harrison can be a major factor seems just too much of a stretch for this skeptic. 

Despite being the team's No. 2 all-time sack man, Harrison only registered two sacks in 15 games last season in Cincinnati. The Bengals released him in March.

Please read that last sentence again.  The Bengals released...

I'm a huge fan of Silverback. I have three Steelers jerseys: Ben, Troy and Harrison. I even got the Super Bowl XVIII road one, mostly based on his 100-yard interception return for a score.

But just because I've got his jersey and regard him as an all-time great Steelers player, doesn't mean I feel his addition means the road to Glendale is paved in black and gold.

Nostalgia is fun, but not when you want to win in the NFL. I've been wrong before and I hope I'm wrong about the return of James Harrison to the Steelers defense.

Time will tell this tale.

John Phillips is a radio personality for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and a columnist for Behind The Steel Curtain. Check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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