Age is nothing but a number. This saying certainly rings true for Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, who at 37-years-old seems to defy the laws of aging with his incredible workouts and his contributions to the team on the defensive side of the football. Harrison accounted for 5.5 sacks in 2014, and that was after coming out of retirement and dealing with a lingering knee injury. After an entire offseason to train and prepare his body, there is no doubt Harrison could lead the team in sacks in 2015.
With Harrison ready for the upcoming season, ESPN.com asked it's AFC North panelists who the most feared defensive player is on the team's roster, and majority said that honor would be bestowed upon Harrison. See what the panelists from the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens had to say about their selection of who the most feared Steelers defender might be:
Coley Harvey, Cincinnati Bengals:
James Harrison. Can I end my answer there? Seriously, until he finally retires, Harrison will always be the most feared and intimidating player on his team's defense. Maybe it's the black visor. I dunno. Maybe it's the 1,000 pounds he can squat. I dunno. Maybe it's the five-mile stare he has that cuts through cameras and notepads and the chests of opposing quarterbacks. I dunno. Whatever it is that makes him so respected around the league will keep him that way until his career officially ends. It will be interesting to see how productive Harrison will be now that beloved longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is in Tennessee.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens:
Let's go old school with Harrison. Sure, this is going to raise eyebrows because Harrison is 37 and actually retired last year. But there is something that happens to Harrison when he plays the Ravens. He somehow turns back the clock to 2004 and wreaks havoc. The numbers tell the whole story. Since 2004, Harrison has 13 sacks against the Ravens. No other player has more than 8.5 against Baltimore over that time. He didn't do this damage five or six years ago. Harrison recorded two sacks against the Ravens last season in his only game against them. He has always carried a chip on his shoulder because the Ravens cut him before training camp even began. It probably didn't sit well with him that the Ravens signed Elvis Dumervil while Harrison was making his free-agent visit at the Ravens facility. History says Harrison is the Steelers' most feared defensive player.
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns:
Excellent question. There aren't a lot of names that jump right out, which is interesting for a Steelers unit that always seems to have somebody. Jarvis Jones and Bud Dupree play the "feared" outside linebacker spots, but they have not arrived yet. It would be tempting to go with Harrison (especially in Cleveland), but he's on the back nine. The best name to go with: Cameron Heyward. Yes, he's an end in a 3-4 scheme, but from that spot he had 7 1/2 sacks and played well enough to be ranked as the sixth-best end in a 3-4 scheme, per ProFootballFocus.com. Heyward also has been around long enough to understand the Steelers way.
The 2015 Steelers defense is a far cry from it's former self when it comes to marquee names across the defensive front. Gone are Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel. James Farrior and Larry Foote have been replaced by Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier. LaMarr Woodley is nowhere to be found around Pittsburgh, but the team hopes a combination of Arthur Moats and Bud Dupree will be able to recreate some of the success Woodley saw in the black and gold.
Harrison might have been given the tag of "most feared defender" based on reputation, but his statistics show he is still able of producing. The fact of the matter is the Steelers simply don't have many players on their defensive roster who strike fear in their opponents. Some might say Harrison, some might agree with McManamon and say Heyward, but any way you slice it, the options of being the "most feared defender" for the current crop of Steelers are slim pickings.