It's tough to believe James Harrison, the newly re-acquired Steelers outside linebacker, is aching less off of the field than he would be on it. Deebo has given all indications he's not yet in football shape and he isn't expected to play much when the Steelers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday at Heinz Field.
"I'll see what they have planned for me and go from there, Harrison said, via Ralph N. Paulk of the Post Gazette. "It's been nine or 10 months since I've had to run. It's a lot of difference between working out and being in football shape."
I'm not calling James Harrison a liar, but...I'm not buying it either. This isn't to say James Harrison chucking up 405 pounds on the bench press means he's ready to play a full NFL game, but there are lots of 3-4 outside linebackers available who can sit and watch Arthur Moats play as much as Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones did in the first three games of the year.
We discussed this a bit on The Sports Reporters on Trib Live Radio Friday. Maybe Harrison is playing possum a little bit; suggesting he won't be the game all that much despite knowing he's gonna get a significant amount of snaps.
Brett Keisel also said he didn't think he'd get more than 20 snaps in the team's season-opener against Cleveland. He played 42 snaps in the opener, and 51 in the short-week game against Baltimore. He played 30 in the team's Week 3 win over Carolina.
Keisel also had a preseason game and two weeks of practice before getting on the field in Week 1. Harrison won't have that luxury, but it seems like there's more at work than the notion of Harrison, 36 years old, being signed to watch from the sideline. His skill in coverage was clearly diminished after a knee injury cost him most of the 2012 season, and he wasn't noticeably rangy in coverage last year playing strong-side linebacker for the Bengals. What he is, though, is strong. If he can get off the snap and get into the offensive lineman - particularly against a stretch-running team like Tampa Bay wants to be - his highest and best use could be the exact thing the Steelers need against a wounded Buccaneers team.
On the flip side of this, Moats played very well against Carolina and there's little doubt he will be the team's starter when they take the field Sunday. Still, Harrison is tantalizing enough of an option on run downs that something of a modified plan for the right outside linebacker position may be in order.