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The time is now for the Steelers to unleash James Harrison

With a pair of division games, plus the New England Patriots looming, it's time for the Steelers to add punch to their outside pass rush. Enter James Harrison.

Wild Card Round - Miami Dolphins v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Father time has no schedule. There’s no hiding from him, and there’s no way to escape his call. It simply is what it is. There’s no prejudice nor any judging of political, social or economic ideologies. It’s simple. When your time is up, it’s up.

For James Harrison, that time is almost at hand. The Steelers’ all-time sack leader has been effectively a healthy scratch the past three games. It’s been hard to watch and, for Harrison, it has to be even more painful to sit on the sideline knowing you could play if called on, but...

In what has to be his most disappointing season as an NFL linebacker, James Harrison has seen the field in just four games all season. His last significant playing time came in mid-October when he was used to finish off Alex Smith, and the then-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, sacking the signal caller in the fray’s final seconds to seal a big road win which started this current six-game streak for the Steelers.

Outside of a handful of plays the following week in a 29-14 thrashing of the Cincinnati Bengals, not a peep has been heard out of the linebacker.


Nothing on Instagram other than workout posts, not a snarl towards reporters who walk by. Harrison has been too quiet as the weeks have moved on.

Time for that silence to be broken in the form of some on-field rage.

As the Black-and-gold cruise into the final five games, the next two of which are against division foes, it’s gone on long enough, this shelving of the Silverback. Mike Tomlin mentioned back in September that he’s in favor of riding the ‘hot hand’ as he referred to young guys like T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and Anthony Chickillo, who were making plays and thus, limiting Harrison’s chances of quality time on the field.

Well that hot hand those three were on has gone ice-cold the past month. Dupree has just one sack and 11 tackles in his last four games. Watt has one sack and seven tackles while Chickillo has one tackle over the same amount of time.

I don’t know much about the X’s and O’s of football, but I do know those numbers stink. Your outside backers in a 3-4 scheme need to have better results. And with the Bungals, the dirty birds and that unmentionable team from the northeast on deck, those stats won’t help you keep winning.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as it’s easy to do, but to be clear, the road to winning the division will come down to the next two games. Cincinnati is all but out of contention for a playoff spot, let alone the AFC North crown. Given the fact the Steelers have owned Cincinnati at Paul Brown Stadium, a win should be all but chalked up for Sunday. (I got ahead of myself there, didn’t I?)

If we can assume Vontaze Burfict doesn’t decapitate half of Pittsburgh’s offensive stars, the Steelers should get through Monday Night Football with a keen eye on the Ravens.

Enter James Harrison.

You see, this is the time that the grizzled old vet has been on the shelf for. This is the time of the season when a guy like James can come in, give you 15 good plays in situations where you need a pass rush to disrupt a key third down, or rattle a QB’s noggin. Harrison has gas left in the tank. It’s about time he uses it before he’s on “E.”

There are moments in time where you summon what you’ve got left and make one last run at the crown—where past glory has been won. Championship play comes from the true greats when the chips are on the table and the last die has been cast.

For James Harrison, it’s now or never. And for his head coach Mike Tomlin, this is the moment for which you’ve been holding that ace up your sleeve. Time to play it. The chance to clinch the division is within grasp. Let the old man help you once more. He’s got it in him. And your team needs it now, not next year.

Having covered the Steelers and sports in Pittsburgh since 1993, John Phillips has been providing sharp sports opinions on the black-n-gold since 2014. Follow JP on Facebook, not Twitter. Mostly because Twitter sucks and is the most useless form of social media ever created.