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Thread: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

  1. #1
    Legend fordfixer's Avatar
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    Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Harris: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    By John Harris, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Tuesday, January 12, 2010
    http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 61715.html

    The best defensive player in the NFL last season wasn't even the best defensive player on his team this year.

    LaMarr Woodley replaced James Harrison as the Steelers' top defender in 2009. Woodley led the Steelers with 13 1/2 sacks and became the disruptive force that Harrison had been the previous two seasons.

    Harrison, though, made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive season based on his solid reputation around the league as a playmaker.

    He just didn't make as many plays as he normally does.

    In retrospect, it was nearly impossible for Harrison to duplicate his scintillating effort from 2008, when he was named defensive player of the year, recorded a franchise-record 16 sacks and scored on a 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII.

    Already the object of double- and triple-team blocking schemes designed to inhibit his path to the quarterback, Harrison, for the first time in his pro career, became a marked man in 2009.

    As difficult as it was trying to match or even surpass his record-setting sack total, Harrison's performance was measured against the new contract he signed in the offseason.

    Fair or not, Harrison was expected to be exceptional all over again. It was a new concept for him.

    Since entering the league, Harrison was always the underdog. He was the guy who didn't get drafted, who was cut four times -- three times by the Steelers -- and had a chip on his shoulder as big as the Hot Metal Bridge.

    Harrison has always played angry -- and with an edge.

    What happened to Harrison in the first season of his six-year, $51.175 million contract -- the most money paid to a defensive player in team history, and the biggest deal ever awarded to a Steelers player older than 30 -- is anyone's guess.

    Harrison's role changed somewhat, as he became more responsible for dropping into pass coverage. That resulted in fewer opportunities for him to pass rush.

    He finished with 10 sacks, which is quite good until you consider that is six fewer sacks than last season.

    Then there's the injury factor. Harrison started the final two games of the season despite suffering a bruised biceps and strained tendon in his left arm.

    Give Harrison the benefit of the doubt in those two games (eight tackles, one forced fumble).

    Playing with that type of painful injury no doubt hampered him from gaining leverage against much taller offensive linemen.

    Still, Harrison failed to record a sack in his final six games.

    He had 79 tackles -- down from 98 in 2008 and 101 last season -- five forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

    Very good numbers, but not sensational. And this was a year when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was desperate for his defense to make splash plays.

    Splash plays are Harrison's specialty.

    Last season against Baltimore, Harrison recorded 10 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble in a home win. In a 2007 win over the Ravens, Harrison had 9 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, three forced fumbles, one interception and a fumble recovery.

    Following Harrison's breakout campaign, opponents spent last offseason devising ways to neutralize him. Teams ran the ball more at Harrison -- the best way to slow down a great pass rusher -- and they threw more to running backs and tight ends, testing his ability to keep pace in the intermediate passing game.

    Harrison also faced an assortment of blocking schemes -- some legal, some not (holding anyone?) designed to keep him off-balance.

    The result was that Harrison's splash plays were reduced.

    This offseason is important for Harrison, who turns 32 in May.

    Outside linebacker Joey Porter (whom Harrison replaced) and guard Alan Faneca weren't re-signed, in part, because the Steelers weren't willing to pay what those veterans believed they were worth.

    Harrison, who didn't become a starter until late in his career, doesn't carry the mileage of most linebackers his age. However, he plays a physical style of defense that can exact a physical toll.

    The Steelers made an exception when they re-signed Harrison, who needs to be exceptional again in 2010.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    You can't blame Harrison for the fact that referees won't call holding as part of their strategy to protect QBs. The league is embarassing themselves in this area and it is similar to what refrees in hockey allowed to happen in the late 90's and earlier this decade.

    Woodley will also become a marked man. He will be held much more next season. It won't be called. IMO both Woodley and Harrison are at a disadvantage because they are both primarily bull rushers which allows blockers to lock up with them and hold them more easily without it being blatant and therefore allows the refs to ignore it. That is much more difficult to do to speed rushers who can gain the outside edge and force the OL to reach where holding becomes much more obvious. That is why I think Timmons would be so effective on the outside.
    Playing Fantasy Football does not qualify you to be the in the front office or on the coaching staff of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are professionals and you are not!

  3. #3
    Pro Bowler BigRob's Avatar
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    All anyone needs to do is look at Suggs with the Ravens. Look at the money they paid him and then look at his production and health. I take Harrison everyday of the week.

    Harrison is not even in the top paid linebackers or DE's when calculating for the Franchise tag.
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Quote Originally Posted by Oviedo
    You can't blame Harrison for the fact that referees won't call holding as part of their strategy to protect QBs. The league is embarassing themselves in this area and it is similar to what refrees in hockey allowed to happen in the late 90's and earlier this decade.

    Woodley will also become a marked man. He will be held much more next season. It won't be called. IMO both Woodley and Harrison are at a disadvantage because they are both primarily bull rushers which allows blockers to lock up with them and hold them more easily without it being blatant and therefore allows the refs to ignore it. That is much more difficult to do to speed rushers who can gain the outside edge and force the OL to reach where holding becomes much more obvious. That is why I think Timmons would be so effective on the outside.
    So....let's go to the 4-3. That will make both of them better players.

  5. #5
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    I thought Harrison had a decent year. A little drop off in the second half of the year but 2008 was insane. I would have loved to hear his name late in the 4th during the skid but it's not like the opposing team had a ton to focus on outside of Woodley.

  6. #6

    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Still Jabber Joey who he replaced had all of one season in 11 year career with more tackles than 79 in a "down" year for Harrison. Joey had "Steeler career" high of 10.5 sacks. Joey has never forced 5 fumbles in a season, also done in a "down" season for Harrison.

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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Simply a stupid article all around. Harrison's not going to have an outstanding season every year. It happens. We shouldn't have to rely on Harrison to make up for the deficiencies of other units - namely the secondary and partly the D-line.

  8. #8
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    If Harrison would add an inside spin move to see arsenal, he would be unstoppable.

  9. #9
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Quote Originally Posted by jhansle1
    If Harrison would add an inside spin move to see arsenal, he would be unstoppable.
    Step into the office of Professor Mendenhall. He has a spin move for every occasion.


  10. #10
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    Re: Harrison finds it's hard to be exceptional

    Quote Originally Posted by jhansle1
    If Harrison would add an inside spin move to see arsenal, he would be unstoppable.
    I think he will have to add that move next season to become more dangerous. He gets held almost every play and officials are not calling those holding penalties.
    Steelers Draft
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    Rd 2: Kyle Van Noy - ILB/OLB
    Rd 3c: Philip Gaines - CB
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    Rd 5: Justin Ellis - DT
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