Friday, September 28, 2012

Could James Harrison Have Played His Last Down?

We at If It Ain't Steel this summer wrote that this may be James Harrison's final year. -

Doing so caused a stir among some Steelers fans. Evidently, they couldn't or didn't want to believe that one of their favorites soon may not be available. That his knee and/or back problems or monetary issues would bring a quicker departure for the Silverback. Here's an example of an exchange I had with one in particular after posting the piece:

JF: nope not gonna happen
July 25 at 1:59pm via mobile · Like

Jason Antonio Robinson So, if his back (or knee) just isn't healthy enough and his salary could be used elsewhere, especially knowing the Steelers history in such matters, you think they'd keep him anyway.
July 25 at 2:02pm via mobile · Like · 1

JF:yeap yeap or just retire like peezy did
July 25 at 2:07pm via mobile · Like

Jason Antonio Robinson Ok. Then, in reply I'd like to say: Alan Faneca, Mike Webster, L.C. Greenwood, Levon Kirkland, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Greg Lloyd, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward
July 25 at 2:13pm via mobile · Like

JF: and when they all left they wasnt as good as when they were when they were all steelers case and point at least all of them retired as steelers
July 25 at 2:17pm via mobile · Like

Jason Antonio Robinson That isn't the point, nor is it true. Faneca was still very good, I believe he went to a Pro Bowl. Porter had a career high in sacks after he left. Kirkland went to a pretty good defense in Seattle. Not all retired as Steelers either. The point is simply that his health and/or salary issues could cause a release next year. I'm optimistic, but I also know it's a possibility. Didn't say probability, I said possibility. I'm not the only who has said so either
July 25 at 2:27pm via mobile · Like

JF: well u and whoever thinks r not real fan if yinz think like that and all did retire as steelers meaning they will always be known as a part of the steelers and most of there best years were in a steeler uniform

"Not real fan(s)?" Ok. Nonetheless, it has now become evident to everyone that what was written in the article was on point regarding Deebo's situation. All accept for the timeframe.

Harrison's "health and/or salary issues could" not only "cause a release next year," but the knee problem specifically may cause him to miss the rest of this year...or more. Lance Williams of Steel Curtain Radio suggested as much in his most recent podcast. -

We wrote once before of how important Harrison is not only to the terrorizing of quarterbacks, but especially to the run defense.

The Steelers going into the bye week are near the bottom of the NFL in sacks (5 total) and are surrendering 101 yards per game on the ground (4.32 yards per carry). Can one man really mean that much to a defense?

The evidence seems to suggest "yes."

Now, the lack of a healthy Troy Polamalu obviously also factors into a faltering defense. The loss of a Silverback, though, means a weak core. Teams are able concentrate on stopping the left side because the right has been all but absent. The experiment of a Jason Worilds and Chris Carter tag team isn't working.

Why, some have asked, didn't this get addressed sooner, though? Why didn't the coaches do something? Why didn't they cut him? Why didn't they PUP list him?

Firstly, there was no way the Steelers were going to just cut Harrison at the start of the season. Not only would there have been the injury liability to hinder that, but he has a base salary this season of over $5.5 million and he carries a cap charge of over $9 million. So, that wasn't going to happen. Fans tend to forget the business side of things and it can affect either keeping or releasing a player.

Plus, I doubt anyone, including Harrison, even knew just how bad this all was until recently. Was there a possibility? Maybe. Possible, though, not probable. Considering he was taken off of Active PUP so late in Training Camp/preseason, we'd suggested that he may not be back until after the bye. Surely the coaches and trainers felt the same.

Could Deebo return at some point this season, though, say in time for the playoffs, and still be Deebo? Like I said in the above exchange, I'm optimistic that he can do so. A 75% of James Harrison is better than 100% of whomever else on the defense. He's 34 and not responding well to his injuries, though. Thus definitely making this latest setback very disconcerting.

One thing that has been suggested is Harrison's being put on the Injured Reserve list and agreeing to a pay cut for next year. If so, it would have to be a significant reduction, he's due over $6 million next season. I suppose that it's possible, but it depends on Harrison and whether he thinks he can come back and play again at a high level.

If he comes back at all.


TIDBITS: Weslye Saunders had a four-game, not four-week suspension after all. -

As Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review suggest, he will help the rushing offense once he does since he's a better blocker than Leonard Pope. But, who isn't? -

How massive was the Steelers collapse in the fourth quarter Sunday to the Raiders? Oakland had lost 48 straight games when trailing by 10+ points entering the fourth quarter.

The last two times the Steelers started 1-2 were in 2009 and 2006 - they missed the playoffs each time. Coincidently, those seasons also included losses to the Oakland Raiders. (Gawd, I hate them...)

Darren McFadden's 64-yard touchdown run was the longest the Steelers defense had allowed in six years. The Broncos' Javon Walker had a 72-yard TD run in 2006.