James Harrison's excellent night has a place in Steelers' linebacker lore

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It was a night in which linebackers such as Hall of Famer Jack Ham, Greg Lloyd and Andy Russell were on the field, and others such as Jack Lambert and Joey Porter were honored with video presentations in their absence.

But, in the glorious tradition of Steelers linebackers, it is unlikely that any of them had a game like James Harrison.

Game?

Heck, how about a half?

"I've never seen anything like it," said outside linebacker Clark Haggans. "You see something like when you're playing a video game."

"That's like high-school stuff," said inside linebacker Larry Foote.

Harrison, the right outside linebacker, did just about everything but score a touchdown last night, putting on a performance in a convincing 38-7 victory against the Baltimore Ravens that will be the envy of Steelers linebackers everywhere, past and present.

All he did was force three fumbles, record 2 1/2 sacks, intercept a pass and recover a fumble, leading to three of Roethlisberger's five touchdowns. He also forced Ravens quarterback Steve McNair into an intentional grounding penalty. And here's the impressive part: That was just in the first half.

"They should have put him in on offense and let him run the ball or throw a touchdown," Haggans said. "It was something down the road where I can tell my son I played with this guy and he did all that in one game."

Harrison had another sack in the third quarter to finish with 3 1/2 sacks, 9 tackles and 6 quarterback hurries, not to mention the undying praise of his teammates. They can't remember a more dominating performance from a linebacker.

Only three Steelers linebackers have had more sacks in a game than Harrison -- Chad Brown (4.5), Porter (4) and Jerrol Williams (4).

"He was a beast," said defensive end Brett Keisel, "He played as good as I've seen anyone play since I've been here."

Harrison didn't just limit his big plays to defense. He forced a fumble with a big hit on a punt return by safety Ed Reed, leading to the second touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

But he was the person responsible for an uncharacteristic poor performance against the Steelers by quarterback Steve McNair, who passed for 63 yards and didn't have a completion longer than 9 yards.

And he had a large part in holding the Ravens to 50 yards rushing, despite a 33-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee near the end of the first half. The Ravens finished with 104 yards offense and converted just 3 of 15 third-down chances.

Good thing the Ravens had their Pro Bowl tackle, Jonathan Ogden, back for this game.

"I haven't ever seen anything like that," Foote said. "I can't even imagine a game that was even close."

Harrison wasted little time making an impact, hitting the trifecta when he sacked McNair, forced a fumble and recovered the ball at the Baltimore 20 on the Ravens' sixth play from scrimmage. That set up the first of Roethlisberger's five touchdown passes.

After the Steelers next possession failed, Harrison delivered a big hit on Reed on a punt return, knocking the ball in the air and into the arms of linebacker Lawrence Timmons. Three players later, Roethlisberger made it 14-0.

"That first one, that was unbelievable," Foote said. "He caused the sack and recovered the fumble. That got us jump-started."

He was just getting started.

Harrison nearly recorded a safety when he stripped the ball from McNair again, this time at the 13. McGahee recovered, tried to run backward and was eventually tackled by -- who else? -- Harrison at the 1-yard line.

Then, with the score 28-0, Harrison intercepted McNair's pass across the middle and returned it 20 yards to the Baltimore 44. This time, Roethlisberger threw his fifth touchdown on the half -- a 7-yarder to Nate Washington -- to make it 35-0.

"The offense did a good job of making it a short field," Farrior said. "They punched it in every time."

All thanks to Harrison.


Gerry Dulac can be reached at gdulac@post-gazette.com .


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