Don't Forget About Steelers' James Harrison

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Wednesday, May 02, 2007
By Christopher Stout
Steelers Fever Columnist


There's one thing about this year's draft coverage that really rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn't Brady Quinn and his blond stewardess. It wasn't the fact that the first day of the draft lasted over 11 hours. It was all the talk about Lawrence Timmons stepping in as the immediate, undisputed replacement for Joey Porter. Everybody had the same talking points when it came to Timmons, and very few commentators mentioned the name James Harrsion.

James HarrisonI think Lawrence Timmons is going to be a great Steeler. He's an aggressive hitter with quickness and coverage skills. I have no issue with Timmons whatsoever. My issue is with all of the broadcasters, sports writers and talking heads calling him an instant replacement for Joey Porter.

Do people not realize that James Harrison is a beast? Without a doubt, Timmons will have a chance to compete for the starting spot, but I think Harrison is going to respond well and keep the rookie from taking his place. Actually, I think Harrison is going to have a monster year.

Do you remember when Joey Porter got kicked out the Cleveland game in 2004 for starting up some pre-game antics with William Green? On extremely short notice, Harrison stepped in and stepped up in huge way. In his first NFL start, Harrison led the team in tackles. He had six tackles (five solo), a QB hurry and one pass defense. He also nearly had a safety to go along with his first career sack.

What did Coach Cowher think about Harrison's performance back in 2004?

"James Harrison is a good football player. We have played him inside, we play him outside. He has been an integral part of the kicking game. He has taken a very professional approach. From the time he came here his first year to where he is right now, he prepares. The attention to detail, little things; it is important to him. He is a very explosive guy. If you talk to anybody on the team, pound-for-pound, he may be one of the strongest guys on the team. He is an explosive hitter who can run. He did a great job the other day stepping in for Joey, he really did."

What does new head coach Mike Tomlin think?

"I have an idea of what I think James Harrison is capable of and I think it's going to be more than enough," said the new coach. "We're going to get great outside linebacker play."

Can James Harrison really be good enough to replace Joey Porter? What do you think Dick LeBeau?

"I don't expect us to miss a beat with James Harrison in there at the outside 'backer," said LeBeau during a recent minicamp. "Any games that he's played, our defense has not missed a beat, and he's always been a contributing factor to that, so I have every confidence in the world in him."

Not bad, not bad. But coaches have to say that kind of stuff. By their nature, coaches speak in optimistic quotes. That's their job. But the players -- these guys know what Harrison is really capable of.

"He's not Joey Porter," says James Farrior, "but he's a great player. We're not expecting any kind of dropoff. He's going to do good things out there."

If Harrison gets the opportunity to start at outside linebacker this season, he's going to do everything in his power to lockdown that top spot on the depth chart. Timmons is going to be an excellent player, but he's going to have to wait his turn. Although nobody mentioned this on draft day, rest assured that next season belongs James Harrison.

Another Solid Draft

I loved what the Steelers did in this year's draft. They selected two quality linebackers in the first two rounds. They added depth on to both lines and the secondary. Adding soft-handed tight end Matt Spaeth in third-round and landing wide receiver Dallas Baker (a productive big man red-zone threat) in the seventh-round were both excellent moves. Trading up to grab the punter of the future wasn't very glamorous, but it was still a sound decision. It was a very balanced draft overall.

Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley provide instant depth to a linebacking core that desperately needed an influx of youth. On special teams, the impact of these two players will be immediate. The Steelers kick and punt return coverage units were atrocious last year. With Woodley and Timmons in the mix, kick and punt returners are going to have a lot less room to run this season.