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James Harrison turns back time in Steelers Wild Card victory over Dolphins

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It was as if the football gods turned back the clocks on Sunday, as James Harrison, at age 38, proved to be the defensive catalyst in an overall great performance by the unit in a 30-12 victory over the Dolphins in a Wild Card game at Heinz Field.

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Was I watching a Pittsburgh Steelers game from the 2008 playoffs, or the 2016 version of the Black-and-Gold on Sunday, as the Steelers took on the Dolphins in an AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field?

I ask this because James Harrison, the 38-year-old outside linebacker who supposedly would have limited snaps this season, while backing up Jarvis Jones, seemed unstoppable in Pittsburgh’s 30-12 victory.

The game might have been closer than the 18-point final margin, had it not been for Harrison doing what he’s done so many times before during a stellar career that has always defied the odds—including this season which, by rights, should actually be his third year of retirement after he announced it back in September of 2014.

After returning in early 2014 to help offset the loss of Jarvis Jones to injury, Harrison recorded 5.5 sacks in 11 games. A season ago, he notched five more at the tender age of 37. And this season, the 38-year-old Harrison recorded another five sacks, while adding 39 tackles and starting seven games.

That brings me back to Sunday’s Wild Card game.

Late in the first half, following a Ben Roethlisberger interception, which ultimately led to a Dolphins’ 1st-and-goal from the eight, Harrison came untouched on a blitz and hit quarterback Matt Moore from behind, dislodging the football in the process. Pittsburgh recovered and headed into halftime with a 14-point advantage that could just as easily have been only seven.

How often did Harrison author such heroic acts eight seasons ago on his way to being named NFL Defensive Player of the Year? In fact, how many times did he hit Matt Cassel from behind and dislodge the football from his grasp during a 33-13 rain-soaked, regular season victory at Gillette Stadium?

But, obviously, the postseason was where Harrison shined that year, specifically in Super Bowl XLIII, when, right before halftime, he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass at the goal line and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown. That monumental play was at least a 10-point swing that gave Pittsburgh a 17-7 spread at the break.

Back to Sunday and the year 2017.

Not only did Harrison have his hand in the first turnover of the day, he was right there, waiting to cause another one in the third quarter on the play where Mike Mitchell blitzed and forced Moore to lose the football yet again. Had Mitchell not been there, old No. 92 surely would have had his hand in another takeaway.

For the day, Harrison had 10 tackles (six solo), 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and two more hits on the quarterback.

It wasn’t quite that day at Gillette Stadium back in ‘08, and it wasn’t the Harrison Hundred, but for this Steelers team, it was exactly what was needed as a catalyst for an overall great defensive effort.

Are there any words for Harrison at this point other than legendary?

What does James Harrison have left as the Steelers advance to the divisional round of the playoffs against the Chiefs next Sunday?

Probably a lot.