Many people in Pittsburgh aren’t happy with the NFL’s 2016 schedule. Count me among them. I don’t like the fact that the Steelers are playing on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day wasn’t avoidable. Thanksgiving and/or Christmas were. Complaints aren’t limited to media, fans, and perhaps some of the stadium workers either. At least one veteran Steelers player isn’t thrilled either.

That’s James Harrison. He sent out an Instagram post stating: “Retirement sounds better than ever when you realize you have to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”


Empty threat? Probably.

If not? Go ahead.

Seriously, James. Hang ‘em up.

Personally I’ve gotten a little tired of Harrison’s public dalliance with retirement this offseason. Make up your mind already, James.

Free agency has more or less come and gone. The draft is in a few weeks. The team needs to make a call on Jarvis Jones’ fifth year option in early May. If you don’t plan on playing any longer, that’s fine. Best of luck. You’ve been a great player. But an official decision would be nice.

If Harrison is truly is waiting to go through as much of his offseason routine as possible before making a call in case he suffers a severe injury, that’s understandable. But, to paraphrase a certain coach, that’s “living in your fears.” Harrison has never been one to take such action.
Harrison has also never given much of a crap over what people think of him. Yet for a guy who likes to portray himself as all business and no frills, the linebacker sure seems to seek encouragement from social media love to help make up his mind, doesn’t he? Whether it’s the work out video posts, or the pee test pics, or the “it’s looking good for the home team” tweet… Harrison has done plenty to drum up the drama in an effort to bait internet “likes” and “retweets” these past few months.

Does the unofficial title holder of “NFL’s biggest bad ass” really need this much of a social media pat on the butt to make up his mind?

Maybe the bigger story is why so many in Steeler Nation are waiting with bated breath for Harrison to return. It’s because, sadly (at age 37), he’s still the best player Pittsburgh has at the outside linebacker position. Bud Dupree is a second year work in progress. Arthur Moats is a serviceable role player. And Jarvis Jones has yet to live up to his first round pick status.

Harrison is a shadow of his 2007-’11 Pro Bowl form. But being the best of a mediocre lot seems to be artificially elevating the memory of the OLB’s 2015 season. Harrison was quite good late in the year. He was one of the few players who showed much fight on defense at all in that bad Baltimore loss in week 16. In week 17 he had a crucial interception against Cleveland. And in the two playoff games, Harrison totaled 11 tackles and two sacks.

But in total, the Steelers played 18 games. Harrison failed to register a sack in 15 of them. He never recovered a fumble. Forced only two. And over a four game stretch between 10/25 and 11/29, he tallied just three tackles.

Few seem willing to remember those numbers based on his strong finish, and the lack of depth surrounding him on the roster. This clamor for Harrison to return is far more about bringing back someone to plug a leaky hole, and far less about holding onto an impact performer.

So if working on holidays is the reality check Harrison needed to call it career, I wish him the best of luck. And if this flimsy threat is the reality check Steeler coaches needed to understand how much they have to mold the youth at the outside linebacker position, then at least something good came of it.

But my guess is we’ll see #92 back on the field this year. And it sounds like he’ll be particularly grumpy for three important holiday games in conference.

Good. He plays better that way.


Posted in Pittsburgh Steelers