October 9, 2014
by Alan Robinson
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James Harrison doesn’t have a sack yet in two games, but he’s gotten close to the quarterback. He’s also playing more than perhaps he expected – or the Steelers anticipated.
Now that the five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker has been on the field twice since unexpectedly returning to the Steelers following the injuries to Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier, he believes he made the right decision to end a retirement that was announced barely a month ago.
“It’s fun. Everything happens for a reason. I’m here, because this is where I was meant to be,” Harrison said Thursday. “I’ll say, yeah, it was the right decision (to return to the Steelers).”
After playing 29 snaps in his return against Tampa Bay on Sept. 28, Harrison played 21 snaps Sunday at Jacksonville. Overall, 17 snaps were in run defense, 22 were as a pass rusher and 11 were in pass coverage. He has one QB hit and a tackle.
It’s taken him a little time to get back into game condition; he wasn’t in training camp with any team and his last previous game was Cincinnati’s playoff loss to San Diego last season.
“It doesn’t surprise me. It takes time. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not going to lose all the weight you want in two weeks. It takes time,” he said.
Harrison returns to Cleveland this week – to the stadium where he made his first NFL start in 2004 and, one year later, gained some notoriety by body-slamming a Browns fan who dared venture onto the playing field. He’s looking forward to the anticipated atmosphere in a city where he’s played many times.
“It’s going to be live. It’s always live up there. They have a good group of fans that like to keep it interesting,” said Harrison, who played college football at nearby Kent State.
Up next on Harrison’s radar screen: Brian Hoyer, a former backup Steelers quarterback whose locker stall was only a couple of cubicles away from Harrison’s two years ago.
Now Hoyer is fast establishing himself as the Browns quarterback for the foreseeable future, as long as he can stay healthy – leading them to a 2-2 record, four tightly-played games (none decided by more than three points). He’s also directed road comebacks from 24- and 25- point deficits – and in just four games’ time. And he has just one turnover, an interception Sunday in the 29-28 win at Tennessee.
In the earlier Browns-Steelers meeting, Hoyer drove the Browns to 24 consecutive points and a 27-all tie before the Steelers came back to win 30-27 on Sept. 7.
“He doesn’t turn the ball over. He makes good decisions,” Harrison said. “One turnover in four games? When you do that, you’re hard to beat because you’re not beating yourself. He makes big throws and they put him in positions to stretch the defense.
“Even the two games they lost, were last-second things. It’s not a far stretch from them being 4-0.”
And it’s not a far stretch to think that James Harrison might be close to getting his first Steelers sack since 2012. His last one? In the regular-season finale against Cleveland in 2012.