Steelers notebook: This might not be Harrison’s final season
James Harrison won’t limit himself in how many snaps he can play this season. He won’t limit himself in how many seasons he might play after it ends, either.
The Steelers’ 38-year-old linebacker said “it wouldn’t be a problem” to be on the field as much as he was during the late stages of his prime, when he speculated he was playing about 80 percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps.
Harrison also wasn’t willing to announce that the 2016 season — his 14th — would be his final one in the NFL.
“I’m not ready to say anything (about a retirement mindset),” he said prior to the first practice of minicamp on Tuesday.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger called Harrison, “The ageless wonder.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever be done.”
Harrison signed a two-year contract prior to last season, about six months after coming out of a brief retirement early in the 2014 campaign. In 2015, he was part of a four-man rotation at outside linebacker. But Harrison played more snaps (55 percent of the Steelers’ total) than Jarvis Jones, Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats, even though Jones started at right outside linebacker and Harrison was purportedly his backup.
Tuesday, Harrison deferred to Jones again: “That’s what he is, he’s the starter. … It don’t bother me at all.”
Harrison’s body this spring responded better than he thought to its annual spring preparation for a grueling NFL season. Harrison said by the third week of workouts, he knew he’d come back to play, in part, because he was healthy and not needing to do any rehab from injury.
Harrison couldn’t help but suppress a laugh when asked if he’d be taking part in the practices at the mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. Tomlin typically shields his veterans from as many preseason practices as possible, and last year that included the first two weeks of training camp practices at St. Vincent College. Harrison doesn’t expect that to change this season.
As far as how much he will play once the real games start, Harrison said he was capable of playing “80-something” percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps.
“I am sure you could pull James off of a couch at 60, he would tell you he could play 80 percent of the snaps,” Tomlin said. “That’s James’ mentality. … You like guys with that mental approach.”
But Harrison stopped short of saying he should play that much.
“I said I could,” Harrison said. “I would like to do whatever is necessary to help this team win.”
‘That’s what Pittsburghers do’
Told that Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after his team won the Stanley Cup that the three professional teams in town support each other like a fraternity, Tomlin agreed it’s different in Pittsburgh than other cities he’s resided.
“Some of the other places I lived didn’t stack championships in the ways that we do in Pittsburgh,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin was asked why he’s been so supportive of the Penguins and Pirates.
“I’ve been here so long now that I am a Pittsburgher,” he said. “That’s what Pittsburghers do. They support one another. They cheer for championships. The Penguins delivered the goods; I’m just happy to be a part of it on that level.”
Ben’s new Ferrari
Come time for the season, Ben Roethlisberger will have a new weapon for his offense. He feels like a kid crossing off the days until Christmas, waiting to unwrap tight end Ladarius Green.
“I always joke with him every day, ‘You’re like that brand new Ferrari that I have that’s in the impound lot that we’re just looking through the fence at,’ ” Roethlisberger said.
Green, whom the Steelers signed to a four-year, $20 million contract in March, was one of the NFL’s fastest tight ends in four seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
From friend to ‘enemy’ in purple
Roethlisberger revealed he put the press on buddy Eric Weddle early this spring when Weddle was a free-agent safety, and the Steelers were in the market for one.
“I was, absolutely … trying to get him here,” Roethlisberger said of Weddle, who spent his first nine seasons with the Chargers. “There was no ‘playful’ about it. I thought he would have been good for us.
“Now, he’s the enemy.”
Weddle signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the division-rival Baltimore Ravens.
“The other day he texted me, and said, ‘We don’t talk anymore now?’ ” Roethlisberger said. “So it’s a little different, but he’s still a good friend.”