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News » Harrison making career out of big games vs. Ravens

Harrison making career out of big games vs. Ravens

Harrison making career out of big games vs. Ravens
PITTSBURGH (AP) - James Harrison is making a career out of tormenting the Baltimore Ravens, crowding a season's worth of statistics into each game he plays against them.

The Ravens talked this week of needing to account for the Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker on every play, if only because they already know what happens when they don't.

Last season, Harrison had 3 1/2 sacks, forced three fumbles, recovered one and had an interception as the Steelers beat Baltimore 38-7 - a game that proved important to them winning the AFC North title.

After the Ravens' Trevor Pryce predicted he would never play a game like that again, Harrison had a similar performance with 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble that was returned for a touchdown during Pittsburgh's 23-20 overtime win over Baltimore on Sept. 29.

"Actually, stuff like that motivates me," Harrison said. "It makes me want to prove somebody wrong."

"When I hear what somebody tells me I can't do, it drives me to want to do it even more to prove them wrong," Harrison said.

Just as Harrison wanted to show the Steelers he could play in the NFL despite not being drafted out of Kent State and getting cut three times by them. He was cut by the Ravens, too, after being assigned by them to NFL Europe four years ago.

Still, Harrison said he doesn't derive any extra satisfaction from his big games against Baltimore - in part because the Steelers haven't won there since 2002.

Pittsburgh (10-3) can wrap up the AFC North and a first-round playoff bye by ending that streak Sunday. If the Ravens win, they would tie for the division lead and, with some help, could qualify for the AFC playoffs.

"As far as trying to prove something to the Ravens, just the Ravens, it's not my point," Harrison said. "I'm just trying to do the best I can and prove anybody that thinks I couldn't do it wrong, that's all."

Having Harrison around two years ago allowed the Steelers to release Joey Porter, one of the leaders of their Super Bowl-winning team during the 2005 season. Porter signed a big-money deal with Miami and now leads the NFL with 16 1/2 sacks.

Harrison, who did not start until last season, is a major reason the Steelers' defense is having one of the best seasons by any team since the NFL merger in 1970. The Steelers lead the league in rushing, passing and overall defense and in fewest points allowed.

"He has great work ethic, both on the field and off," coach Mike Tomlin said. "He's got great football character. When you put those things together with a guy being given an opportunity, it just warms your heart to see a guy take advantage of it."

Harrison's steely glare and edgy attitude don't generate much warmth from opposing quarterbacks.

"They have some guys who can really play well," Baltimore's Joe Flacco said of a defense that is led by Harrison, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (11 1/2 sacks) and safety Troy Polamalu (7 interceptions).

And to think Harrison went through being snubbed in the draft and being cut four times by two teams to get on the field. Maybe that's one reason he still plays special teams; he is third on the team with 12 tackles in the kicking game.

"I watch him week in and week out, and he does pretty much the same things every week," Tomlin said. "It might not appear that way to (the Ravens), but he's been very consistent in his play."

If the Steelers have been inconsistent, it's been on offense, where the team ranks in the bottom third of the league. Yet Harrison said that doesn't drive the defense to play even better.

"We don't really feel like we have to do anything because our offense isn't or is doing something," Harrison said. "We try to stop the other team from scoring. If we're able to do that, it doesn't matter what our offense does because you can't win if nobody scores points."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 13, 2008

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David Pittman Name: David Pittman
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