On the Steelers: James Harrison ends 'retirement' and signs to play one more year
September 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Steelers linebacker James Harrison was fined for this hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010.
Matt Freed /Post-Gazette
James Harrison sacks Seattle quarterback Tarvaris Jackson during a 2011 game at Heinz Field.
James Harrison has announced that he will play one more year with the Steelers.
James Harrison scores a touchdown after running back an interception for 100 yards in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
James Harrison announced his retirement on Sept. 5.
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Now more than ever the Steelers might have to lean on their offense to crank it up while their defense licks its wounds and welcomes linebacker James Harrison back from his “retirement.”
They knew their defense would be a work in progress as it was, but having lost three starters for undetermined stretches of time could make it a work in regress.
That defense took a step forward Sunday night before it was slammed with the losses of cornerback Ike Taylor (broken right forearm), and linebackers Jarvis Jones (right wrist) and Ryan Shazier (right knee).
Taylor and Jones had surgery Monday and the timing of their possible return to the lineup is unknown. But the Steelers placed Jones on the injured reserve-recall list. As such, he cannot return to the lineup for eight weeks, but can begin practicing after six weeks. Each team is permitted to have one player on that injured reserve-recall list.
They replaced him on the roster with a familiar face, linebacker James Harrison. Harrison will return to play “one more year” as he stated Monday night on Twitter.
Harrison, 36, played 10 years with the Steelers before signing as a free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 after he declined to take the pay cut the Steelers wanted him to take to return.
The Bengals released him this year, and he announced his “retirement” the first week of September at the team’s facility on the South Side.
He now will return to that facility to prepare to play against Tampa Bay Sunday at Heinz Field.
Shazier has a sprained MCL, according to an ESPN report, and, depending on the severity of the injury, he would miss a minimum of two to three weeks.
“Next man up” does not always mean best man up. If their offense needs to step things up because of it, they say they can do that after a 37-19 rout of the Carolina Panthers, a team Boomer Esiason declared on CBS-TV before the game as the best in the NFL.
“We showed everybody what we’re capable of,” said right tackle Marcus Gilbert. “We all know it’s one week at a time. We can’t look forward to the future.”
“We know what kind of guys we have, we know what kind of line we have, we know what kind of quarterback we have. If our defense keeps playing Steeler football, we’ll be unstoppable.”
Good news, in twos
The good news for the Steelers is twofold: Their revived offense and their upcoming schedule.
They play winless Tampa Bay Sunday at Heinz Field with the Buccaneers ready to make a quarterback change. After that, they travel to Jacksonville, then to Cleveland and return home to finish that stretch against Houston. The Browns look to be their toughest test over the next month, but a 6-1 record is within reason, if they play the way they did Sunday night.
“We expect greatness, that’s the big thing,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said of his offense. “We expect to run the ball, throw the ball, no-huddle, in the huddle. We expect to do all those things and be efficient at all those things and I think we did a good job of putting it all together.”
Indeed, it is what they expected of their offense, the one that opened the season’s first two quarters against Cleveland by scoring 27 points and the one Sunday night in Charlotte, N.C.
They have the backs, the receivers, the line and, of course, the quarterback to do that on a regular basis.
Two key adjustments
Two offensive tackles, two different problems, two solutions.
Right tackle Marcus Gilbert allowed four sacks in the first two games and was run over on one by Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil. He said last week he was not setting his feet. Not only did he set them properly Sunday, he may have had the best game of his young career, blocking for the run and in pass protection.
“I just wanted to come out here and give my all, give myself to the team,” Gilbert said. “I know there were a couple situations in the previous two games in critical third downs I didn’t come out and protect the way I know I could.
“This week, I got my feet on the ground instead of on my heels.
It just worked out well for me. I’m excited for this win. It wasn’t always perfect but the score looked pretty good.”
Beachum, their left tackle, allowed defensive end Mario Addison to get around him on the outside twice early on, one for the only sack of Ben Roethlisberger. He adjusted.
“I knew he had a little shake to him,” Beachum said of Addison. “He got around me. I shouldn’t have been dancing with him. I knew I had help inside. I bit toward his inside move.”
So Beachum adjusted more to his left. How did it work?
“He didn’t touch the quarterback after that, did he?”
’Running ‘a beautiful thing'
Yes, the NFL has become a passing league, but if the Steelers can come close to continuing to run the way they did Sunday in Carolina, they will have the best of both.
“Getting them through the line of scrimmage Scott-free, and letting them toy with the safeties and corners and run past them and juke them,” Beachum said, “it’s a beautiful thing.”
Bell’s 81-yard run was the longest by a Steelers back since Frenchy Fuqua had an 86-yard run Dec. 20, 1970 at Philadelphia.
To do so, Bell put a move on No. 59, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2013.
“Fifty-nine, he kind of overran it a little bit,” Bell said. “I ran outside a little bit to make him think I was going outside.
“Our offensive line did a great job of driving the [defensive tackle] off the ball. I hit it and kept running until I couldn’t run any more.”
Bell called Carolina’s defense “real patient.”
“They’re so willing to give up 3, 4 yards rather than give up the big play. We knew that as an offense and wanted to be patient also.
“Eventually, we kind of wore those guys down and started popping off big runs. The offensive line did a great job opening up the holes and allowed me to pick where I wanted to go.
“Everybody saw the way LeGarrette [Blount] closed the game out.”
Getting his kicks
Shaun Suisham’s three field goals give him 23 in a row without a miss, a Steelers record previously held by Jeff Reed.
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