After Steelers linebacker James Harrison had a sackless first two games of the season, there were a few quiet rumblings in Pittsburgh wondering whether Harrison’s big offseason contract was a sound investment considering Harrison’s age — 31.
No one is wondering anymore.
Harrison has eight sacks in the last six games, despite increased responsibilities in pass coverage. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review does a great job detailing Harrison’s various roles. On first and second downs, he has an increased role in pass coverage, dropping back 59% of the time. On third down, he generally gets after the quarterback, rushing 80% of the time.
It’s remarkable Harrison can contend for the league lead in sacks in this manner; it’s not like Jared Allen and DeMarcus Ware are backing up into coverage that much. Harrison is asked to cover defenders as varied as Brandon Marshall and Antonio Gates.
Harrison’s quiet start to the season can probably be traced to his usage. In his first two games, he played pass coverage more than he rushed. Since then, he’s rushed 69% of the time.
His teammates say it’s nothing new.
“He has always been a complete player to me,” Lamarr Woodley said. “Is there anything he can’t do?”
While Harrison has some ground to make up, it’s not impossible to think that he could defend his Defensive Player of the Year award with a big second half.