When rookie phenom TJ Watt went down with an injury Sunday, everyone expected the usual. Bring on old reliable James Harrison to try to fill the void. After all he is the team’s all-time leader in sacks. Even at age 38, he led the Steelers in sacks in 2016 with five. But something strange has happened to the Steelers defense this season. The club has found itself with depth and talent at a position that has plagued them for years. The Steelers may finally have the kind of talent at outside linebacker to put this defense back on the map.
It’s still very early, but the flashes shown by both Bud Dupree and TJ Watt are very encouraging. Not only that, but Anthony Chickillo proved there isn’t much of a drop off if one of the starters were to go down. This is great news for a team that hasn’t had a double-digit sack player in over ten years. Kevin Colbert has suffered through a few misses in the draft over that time. The name Jarvis Jones immediately comes to most Steelers’ fans minds. All the while the team continued to rely on a past his prime James Harrison as a band-aid until they could find a more permanent solution. To his credit, he has defied father time and given the Steelers some competent play over the last few seasons. We all asked the question how long could this continue? Fortunately the team won’t have to find out now that they no longer have to rely on him as a major contributor at outside linebacker.
Not everyone is happy with the lack of playing time for James Harrison, but they should be. It’s a sure sign that this defense is taking a giant step forward into respectability. They now have the players that will provide the pass rush this team has so badly needed. That in turn will help the secondary, making the whole defense better. Bud Dupree, TJ Watt, and even Anthony Chickillo are about to restore the identity of a feared defense, which is what this organization was built on. The fact that the Steelers have this, and don’t have to turn to a 39-year-old linebacker is good news indeed.