The Bengals looked to beef up their defensive front-seven in 2013, taking a flier on ex-Steelers linebacker James Harrison in an effort to move him to strongside outside linebacker.
It wasn't a bad idea, but it didn't have the results they had hoped, either. Harrison didn't get on the field a whole lot, and perhaps Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is being nice by saying "nobody let James stay out there against us," Lewis said, according to ESPN's Scott Brown. "People played three and four wide receivers against us a bunch."
Harrison's value in a 4-3 defense will be providing edge run-support behind a group of active defensive ends like those in Cincinnati. The Bengals released Harrison this off-season and, four games into the 2014 season, found his way back to Pittsburgh. He's had more production in nine games this year than he had in a full 2013 season, and he didn't participate in training camp this year.
"He looked like he’s slimmed down just a little bit from what I can see [on tape]," Lewis said. 'He looks great, he’s making plays."
Will he be happy to return to Cincinnati? At a time in which Harrison was offered a reduced salary to stay in Pittsburgh, the Bengals were the only team to have reportedly offered him a contract outside of Pittsburgh. To that degree, he'd have to at least appreciate the opportunity, even if his reasonable production didn't lead to the team keeping him around for another year.
The Steelers take on the Bengals on Sunday in a critical AFC North battle. Harrison will play the vast majority of the snaps in this game, whether the Bengals spread the field with receivers or not. Whether he can get pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton, with the excellent Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati's high-end left tackle, standing in his way, will be a key factor in this game.