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James Harrison sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times his senior year

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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has met James Harrison previously. Harrison had his best collegiate game, at the expense of the Miami quarterback in 2001.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Facing James Harrison without experienced offensive linemen seems like walking into a warzone without Kevlar.

That's sort of what happened to Ben Roethlisberger in 2001.

A great story picked up by Post-Gazette reporter Gerry Dulac in Saturday's edition. Former Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison, now with the Bengals, sacked Roethlisberger four times in a game when they faced each other in college.

Harrison, a senior at Kent State, teed off on Roethlisberger, the redshirt freshman at Miami University. According to Roethlisberger, "We played in Hawaii the week before and because that was supposed to be our final game of the season, many of our seniors planned to stay in Hawaii and didn't come back," Roethlisberger said. "So we had to use a bunch of guys who couldn't play and I got killed."

Interesting, considering the Steelers will start Fernando Velasco at center, his first action since the Titans' final preseason game against the Vikings Aug. 29. Velasco was released on final cut down day by the Titans.

More than anything, though, the presence of Harrison on the Bengals will create issues for the Steelers in the run game. While Harrison's pass rushing ability has been noted in the past, he's always been better against the run. He's strong and plays very low to the ground, making it extremely difficult to move him off that edge. It will likely be the assignment of Marcus Gilbert in pass rushing situations, but there's little doubt the Steelers will run protection formations often against a dominant Bengals defensive line.

Hopefully, half the Steelers' team didn't leave for Hawaii this weekend, and Roethlisberger can get adequate protection. Maybe even run the ball well.

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