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News » Harrison thrives on muted emotion


Harrison thrives on muted emotion


Harrison thrives on muted emotion
The baseball cap that proclaimed the Steelers 2008 AFC North champions did not exactly go with the gold, pinstriped suit he wore.


What made it look even more out of place: the fact that it was perched on the head of James Harrison as he left the visiting locker room at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.

The Steelers' outside linebacker is not prone to celebration -- he shrugged off tying the team's single-season sack record when he accomplished the feat a couple of weeks ago -- and reflection and looking ahead are not part of his daily routine, either.

The focus that can be seen in the flinty stare Harrison fixes on a reporter who dares to ask him about a milestone or an opposing quarterback who dares to drop back to pass is one reason why he has emerged as the most dominant player on the NFL's best defense.

And there is a reason why Harrison, one of three Steelers players named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, stays so rooted in the moment.

"Let me put it to you like this," Harrison said. "One week they're on (Eagles quarterback Donovan) McNabb, talking about, 'Oh he's washed up,' all that other bull and then the next week, 'Oh, he's the greatest thing going.' That's where that comes from. You're only as good as your last game."

It that is the case, then Harrison may have a little extra motivation Sunday when the Steelers visit Tennessee with a chance to overtake the Titans for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

Harrison had five tackles in the Steelers' 13-9 win over the Ravens on Sunday, but he did not register a sack in the victory that clinched the AFC North title. He still is among the NFL's league leaders in sacks -- Harrison is fourth with 15 -- and he needs one quarterback takedown in the Steelers' final two games to set a team record.

It is a measure of how relentless Harrison has been that when Lawrence Timmons sacked Joe Flacco late in Sunday's game, a double-take was required to make sure Harrison had not taken down the Ravens' quarterback.

That is because Timmons looked like Harrison has so many times this season while tearing around the edge and then chopping down on the throwing arm of Flacco as he sacked him.

When asked if he has been working with Timmons on his patented move, Harrison said, "He's been watching. Just from last year to this year, it's a great difference in what he's doing."

The same can be said about Harrison, even though he broke through in 2007 and made the Pro Bowl in his first season as a starter.

He has nearly doubled the number of sacks (81/2) he had last season, and his seven forced fumbles have already eclipsed the number (six) he had in 2007. Harrison also excels on special teams -- playing them is almost unheard of for a player of his caliber -- which is another reason why his teammates say he needs to be prominent in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Quite an encore

James Harrison

made the Pro Bowl in his first

season as a starter, and the Steelers' outside linebacker has built on

what he accomplished in 2007. Here is a look at his 2007 and 2008

seasons:

Tackles (total)

Sacks

Forced Fumbles

Fumble Recoveries

Interceptions

2007

80

8.5

6

1

1

*2008

93

15

7

0

1

*Two games

remaining in regular season.

"He better (be)," cornerback Deshea Townsend said.

"Yeah, definitely," safety Troy Polamalu said, "but it's tough on our defense to get any consideration like that because we're such a team defense."

The Steelers are No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and passing defense and second in rushing defense. They have tied a record by allowing fewer than 300 yards in 14 games to start the season -- the Los Angeles Rams in 1973 are the only other team to accomplish that feat since the NFL merger in 1970 -- and if Harrison is not the unit's heart, he is at least its scowl.

His demeanor is reminiscent of Jack Lambert, another Kent State product who excelled and intimidated as a Steelers linebacker. Whether Harrison is that intense all of the time is up for debate.

"I've seen the soft side of James. When he gets around his son he gets a little soft, he gets silly," inside linebacker Larry Foote said. "He's definitely a weirdo, though, don't get me wrong. He has definitely got some screws missing."

The one thing Harrison isn't missing is the desire to excel. That is why he said he won't look back on what he has accomplished until the season is over.

"And then after you get your nice little time (off)," Harrison said, "you start preparing for the next season."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 18, 2008

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