James Harrison has earned his right to be mentioned along with the legendary players that have played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After being an undrafted free agent that bounced around the NFL for his early years, he became a dependable special teams player for the Steelers back when Bill Cowher was head coach, but earned his right as a consistent starter during the Mike Tomlin era.
Between his days when he was crushing Ed Reed on punt returns and returning interceptions for touchdowns to these days when he still can pull out three sacks in a single game, Harrison has been the best outside linebacker in the recent Steelers' history of using the 3-4 defensive scheme.
After the 2012-2013 NFL season, Harrison left Pittsburgh to sign with the Cincinnati Bengals for a season. He did not flourish in a 4-3 system, but he found himself back in Pittsburgh after retiring during the offseason and coming back to contribute to the Steelers defense for at least two more seasons.
Harrison is 37 years old and still bringing the pain. He made a great interception that turned the tide of the most recent Steelers' victory against the Cleveland Browns, but he has also been a presence all season long. We take a look at some of the more fun plays to watch Harrison on this season in honor of his legend.
If you follow James Harrison on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen all his extreme workout videos that show him doing insane exercises in extreme conditions to get to into the shape he wanted to be for this season. Some of those are major weight lifting feats that show just how strong he still is at 37. But you can skip all those workout videos and just watch this right here. Harrison explodes from his pass rush over to the receiver and absolutely crushes him to force a fumbe and a key turnover. Harrison has had some of the biggest hits in fans' recent memory, but this one should absolutely be up there.
Harrison had a three sack game against the Indianapolis Colts this season, so we figure we should do it justice by including the sack that forced a turnover. Harrison has abused offensive tackles all over the league over his career and he still does just that this year. His explosion off the ball is admirable, but his fundamentals are what seal the deal. When Harrison engages blockers he often uses the proper technique to gain leverage during pass rush while still being prepared for a run to his side or for a quarterback to tryt to escape the pocket. Have fun watching this sack/fumble.
OK, so it's not officially a "play," but it's still some awesome footage of Harrison. We covered the interception he had against the Browns earlier this week, so we want to dig up some of our older film room GIFs. We could look at other sacks he's had or solid run defensive plays, but what's more fun than watching Harrison absolutely DESTROY a Bengals lineman. Harrison's greatest play of his career was his interception returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl 43. Part of what made that play was the rest of the defense blocking down the field to plow the road. Harrison knows that's important, so it's awesome to see that seven years later, he's still got that mentality has he throws a huge block for Robert Golden's first career interception. Just sit back and watch him show how hard he can hit even at his old age.
This post was less analytical on our part and more about admiration for one of our favorite Steelers. He's been a leader for the Pittsburgh Steelers for many years now with two Super Bowl rings and several legendary moments that have made Steelers' fans cheer. If this is his last season, he's had one heck of a performance for a year so late in his career.