Linebacker James Harrison announced his retirement after 15 seasons in the NFL. Most of those fifteen years were spent in the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now that his career has come to an end, it’s time to take a look at where James Harrison fits within the Steelers legends of the past. Many fans may be still angry the way 2017 ended. His little stint with the hated New England Patriots didn’t sit well with Steelers fans. There is no denying however that Harrison is one of, if not the best linebackers in their storied history.
The case for James Harrison is a strong one. To begin with, he is the all-time sack leader in Steelers history. That is an impressive thing on its own considering the pass-rushers this team has had over the years. There was a stretch between 2007 and 2011 where Harrison may have been the most dominant defensive player in the league. During that time span, he managed five straight Pro-Bowl appearances, which included 2 first team All-Pro selections and two second team All-Pro’s. In 2008, he won the defensive player of the year award becoming one of six Pittsburgh players to be win this honor. Most importantly of all when you talk in terms of Steelers legends, Harrison is of course a two-time Super Bowl champion. Who could forget perhaps the greatest play in Super Bowl history when James Harrison intercepted a pass and ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLII.
As you can see, Harrison has it all. From team stat leader, defensive player of the year, to Super Bowl champion. On most other NFL franchises, there isn’t even a debate on who would be the greatest linebacker. But this is the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a team with the likes of Andy Russell, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, and on and on and on. It’s always difficult when trying to compare players from different eras. During the 70’s, offenses were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are today. The rules of the game favored defenses much more back then as well. Even with that said, it’s hard to imagine anyone being better than say Jack Lambert for instance. Lambert’s list of accomplishments is stunning to look at. You’re talking about 4 Super Bowls, 9 Pro-Bowls, 7 first team All-Pro’s, defensive rookie of the year, 2 time defensive player of the year, and a member of the all decade team for both the 70’s and the 80’s. Even factoring in the rules and the opposing offeneses it’s hard not to call Lambert the all-time best. One thing’s for sure though, James Harrison is in the conversation. That’s saying something when you consider this franchise.