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Steelers News: The Steelers still have a plan for James Harrison

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Despite being used quite sparingly so far, the Steelers claim to still have a plan for Pittsburgh’s all-time sack leader, James Harrison.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

James Harrison is a monster and the all-time sack leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but throughout the 2017 regular season, he’s spent more time watching than terrorizing quarterbacks.

There was the singular game against the Chiefs when Harrison came in, did his job by sacking Alex Smith, and rode off into the sunset.

Since then? Nothing. Nada.

But Joey Porter swears the team has a plan for using Harrison during the remainder of the season.

Time to check on the news outside the walls of BTSC:

The Steelers' newest game of hide-and-seek doesn't involve JuJu Smith-Schuster, Le'Veon Bell or a touchdown celebration.

This time, the player in hiding is veteran James Harrison, who didn’t get onto the field again Sunday night when the Steelers beat the Detroit Lions, 20-15, at Ford Field.

It was the second time this season when Harrison dressed for a game but didn’t play.

The 39-year-old outside linebacker also was inactive for two other games, meaning he’s taken snaps in only half of the Steelers' eight games this season.

His position coach, however, promises Harrison will be sought out when the Steelers return from their bye-week.

“James is never out of the picture,” Joey Porter said Tuesday. “We'll use James when we feel it's time to use James.”

Porter created a stir in training camp when he said Harrison, the franchise's all-time sacks leader, would be used as the football equivalent of a relief pitcher this season. But Porter and coach Mike Tomlin have held true to their word. Harrison has taken just 29 snaps, with only Arthur Moats getting less playing time among outside linebackers.

Harrison's biggest contribution came three weeks ago in Kansas City when he took 15 snaps lining up against Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. His sack of Alex Smith helped the Steelers seal the 19-13 victory over the NFL's last unbeaten team.

Harrison's play, however, didn't warrant an increase in playing time. His snaps dwindled to seven in the Steelers' 29-14 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and he didn't get onto the field against the Lions, who were starting former Steelers player Brian Mihalik at left tackle. It was Mihalik's first NFL start.

Lions quarterback Matt Stafford was sacked twice -– by defensive ends Cam Heyward and Tyson Alualu -– and he passed for 423 yards, the most allowed by the Steelers this season.

Would Harrison squaring off against Mihalik have helped the Steelers get more pressure on Stafford?

“We felt like T.J was a good matchup against Mihalik, too,” Porter said. “They just didn't get there and get to him. Stafford was getting the ball out quick. A couple of times we had him, he flushed out and got away. I don't think (Harrison) would have made a difference in the game.”

It had been more than 36 hours since the end of Sunday night’s game, but Maurkice Pouncey still was fired up on Tuesday afternoon.

“Bro, come on,” Pouncey said--his remarks directed at a pair of Detroit Lions’ defensive linemen. “The game's over. If you wanted to play that hard, you should have done it the first four quarters.”

“That (expletive) is stupid,” Pouncey added.

He was referring to the actions of Detroit's A'Shawn Robinson and Akeem Spence during the penultimate snap of Sunday night's 20-15 Steelers win at Ford Field. During a play in which the Steelers were going to kneel down to run out the clock after being assured the victory, 300-plus-pounders Robinson and Spence aggressively rushed into the Steelers offensive line.

A bout of pushing and shoving ensued, and Robinson was flagged for a personal foul and ejected for throwing a punch to the head of Steelers’ guard Ramon Foster.

Pouncey wasn’t penalized, but he did slap Robinson's head while Robinson was tied up with Foster, eliciting Spence’s approach to Pouncey.

According to the Detroit Free Press , Spence said the incident was the culmination of “a mean football game.” Spence accused the Steelers of dirty play throughout the game.

“Just tempers flaring, man. Guys had been taking shots at us all game,” Spence said. “I don't know what happened on the other side. I can't really speak on it, but I know I'm going to take care of my guys, and my guys are going to take care of me and let the chips fall where they may.”

Spence said he told Steelers guard David DeCastro he was going to “come off the ball” on the kneeldown snap.

“That doesn't matter,” Pouncey said Tuesday. “It's a respect factor. What if I just came off the ball and just cut him? Everybody would be like, ‘What the (expletive)? That's dirty as hell.' If I just came off the ball and kicked him in his face?

“Go watch the film. Go watch how many times they were on their backs. That's probably why they are sitting there complaining. One hundred percent.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is well known for his ability to turn a catch phrase.

Iron sharpens Iron.

Popcorn.

The standard is the standard.

Run 'em 'til the wheels fall off.

We don't live in our fears.

Etc.

And as Tomlin said recently, the bye-week at the halfway point of this 16-game season might be a good time to globally assess a few things about his football team.

So let's do that with one of the few people who can spin a philosophical catch phrase better than Tomlin: Matthew McConaughey.

Just about all of the Steelers' 6-2 campaign thus far can be summed up in a few McConaughey-isms that he has either uttered himself , or in character.

Sure, on occasion they might be borrowed, massaged, stolen or otherwise erroneously attributed to him in some way, shape or form.

But they always tend to sound better in McConaughey-ese.

And by the end of this post I hope to have you convinced that the Steelers will win the Super Bowl.

And that you should buy a new Lincoln MKC .

“I FOUND MYSELF RIGHT WHERE I LEFT ME.”

When we left Latrobe, where did we think the Steelers would be after the first-eight games of the season?

Probably about 6-2, right? Halfway to a 12-4 season.

Well, that's where they are. But—wow—have they taken a circuitous route to get there. Upset losses to the Jaguars and Bears. Road wins at Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore that looked like major tests in August.

All that including the anthem controversy, flying Gatorade coolers, quarterback self-doubt, wide receiver benchings and social media storms along the way.

Yet here they sit at 6-2 atop the AFC North with a perfect 3-0 mark in the division. Right where we thought they'd be when camp broke.

“Yeah. It's been a winding road,” laughed safety Sean Davis.

Well, actually that's a Beatles’ quote. But I'm sure McConaughey would like that one, too.

Sean Davis didn’t seem interested in dwelling on what he and the Steelers had just done well defensively in Detroit. Sure, the 24-year-old safety sounded relieved Monday at the Rooney Sports Complex, both with the 20-15 victory and the team’s record being 6-2 as they enter the bye-week, but he was visibly bothered by how the game was won.

The secondary, which had been ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the pass entering Sunday, allowed Matthew Stafford to throw for 423 yards. And with all of the talented quarterbacks remaining on the Steelers’ schedule, not least of whom is Tom Brady, there’s now a sense of urgency to correct all that went wrong, particularly in zone coverage.

“Yeah, we got the victory and didn’t allow any touchdowns against a top-tier quarterback, but we didn’t play great,” Davis told DKPittsburghSports.com Monday. “We can’t pat ourselves on the back too much. We have a lot of work to do.”

That might sound like too harsh of a self-evaluation, especially after what the Steelers accomplished in the red-zone and on third down, but each of the Lions’ five field goals was set up by Stafford passing his way down the field. Although the Steelers allowed just 71 rushing yards and the Lions were 0-for-5 in the red zone, Stafford completed 27 of 45 passes, including six completions of 25 or more yards. Before Sunday, the Steelers had been allowing only 147 passing yards per game and had surrendered only four total completions of 25 or more yards.