Posted: 6:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, 2013
By Anthony Cosenza
Nine seasons, 64 sacks. Though his career started with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2004, linebacker James Harrison really became one of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL from 2007 through 2012. He excelled at the outside linebacker position in Dick LeBeau's 3-4 scheme, becoming a four-time Pro Bowler and a Defensive Player of the Year while sporting the black and yellow.
As a free agent this offseason, the Bengals knew that they wanted Harrison's services--only this time, Harrison would have to slightly reinvent himself. He wouldn't necessarily be a three-down player as he was at times in Pittsburgh, and would have to shift his responsibilities from rushing the passer to being more of a run-stopper than he had been in the past. While the Bengals' acquisition of Harrison is a good one, it still is a square peg in a round hole type of situation because of his position switch in Cincinnati's 4-3 base system.
While he had a couple of nice moments against the Chicago Bears in the opener, Harrison only had one tackle on the stat sheet. For all of the swagger and attitude that he brings to the Bengals' defense, he will need to do more than a single tackle for the team.
In fairness to Harrison, it isn't entirely his fault. The Bengals' defensive staff didn't necessarily put Harrison in the most opportunistic spots to make plays that showcase his strengths--AKA rushing the passer. For a player that routinely hovered around double-digit sacks annually for the Steelers, the Bengals should think about using him in this capacity on Monday night against the Steelers.
This should especially be the case because of the Bengals' vaunted defensive front failing to record a sack last week. It shouldn't be the only responsibility that Harrison has against his former mates, but it couldn't hurt against an ailing Steelers offensive line. It particularly could be a particularly effective game plan given the look that Harrison has had in his eye this week that is akin to a caged tiger.