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Steelers News: Steelers mum on James Harrison usage vs. the Bengals

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How will the Steelers use James Harrison in Week 7? No one know...

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Last week James Harrison was the Steelers’ closer vs. the Chiefs on the road. He came in, beat the left tackle twice, sacked Alex Smith once, and helped seal the deal for the black-and-gold.

It was a true pleasure to watch. A thing of beauty.

So, should fans expect more of the same on Sunday when the Cincinnati Bengals come to town? Well no one knows, because no one is talking about it.

Time to check in on the news surrounding the black-and-gold outside the walls of BTSC...

Keith Butler offered no bold proclamations Thursday.

The previous week, Butler let it slip outside linebacker James Harrison would play against the Chiefs, saying it would be “good” to have tackle Eric Fisher “see” Harrison.

Harrison played 15 snaps and got a crucial sack late in the fourth quarter.

Butler smiled when asked about Harrison's potential usage against the Cincinnati Bengals and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.

“I ran my mouth a little bit too much last time,” Butler said, “so I'll just leave all that stuff be.”

Harrison has gone five regular-season games without a sack against the Bengals. He had one in the wild-card playoff game after the 2015 season.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who coached Harrison in 2013, said he won't be surprised to see the 39-year-old linebacker Sunday.

“Not one bit,” Lewis said. “No one has seen James more than me. He has a tremendous spirit, and I love him when he's not playing against us.”

Ask A.J. Green who has been the most difficult cornerback against whom he’s lined up and he won’t hesitate to answer: Joe Haden.

But that doesn’t mean the Steelers plan to shadow the Bengals’ most talented wide receiver with Haden when Cincinnati visits Heinz Field Sunday.

Quite the opposite, actually.

When the Steelers signed Haden after the veteran was released by the Browns two weeks before the start of the regular season, Keith Butler decided his defense would no longer use one cornerback to shadow a particular receiver. The plans before that, however, involved matching second-year cornerback Artie Burns with opponents’ top threats. Once the Steelers acquired Haden to replace Ross Cockrell in the starting lineup, that plan went out the window.

“That was something we talked about, if it came down to it, it was something we could lean on,” Burns told me Thursday at Rooney Sports Complex. “But when you’re balanced on both sides of the field, you don’t have to worry about that.”

Butler was a bit more coy than Burns about the team’s plans for Green. The Steelers had shadowed Green early in his career with Ike Taylor.

“I’m not going to tell you how we’re going to play them. I’m not trying to be smart. I just don’t want to let them know what we’re doing,” Butler said. “I’m confident with either one of those guys, to be honest with you. He’s a big, long, tall guy. You see him make catches with three guys on him. He’s going to be a challenge for us.”

DO IT AGAIN: The Steelers survived their kicking game showdown against wide receiver/punt returner Tyreek Hill in Kansas City but they’ll be challenged again this Sunday _ potentially _ by Cincinnati cornerback/punt returner Adam Jones.

That comes as no surprise to the guys who comprise the Steelers’ special teams.

“There are new challenges every week,” linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. “Every team has a different guy who’s a play-maker.”

Jones has only returned three punts this season (for an average of 27 yards per return) but he has five career punt-return touchdowns.

“If you have all your guys doing their job, it doesn’t really matter who’s back there,” Matakevich said. “It might make it a little harder, but at the end of the day you should still get it done.”

Hill had a 32-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter last Sunday but was unable to add to his career total of four returns for a score. Fullback Roosevelt Nix and Matakevich were able to get Hill on the ground after he’d advanced a punt from the Chiefs’ 12-yard line to the Kansas City 44 with 1:42 remaining in regulation.

The defense closed out the Steelers’ 19-13 victory from there.

“That guy is the best right now at taking those punts back to the crib,” Nix said. “Just to be able to stop him, we played him well. There’s definitely room for improvement but I was proud of our unit.”