PITTSBURGH -- If James Harrison re-retires after this season and doesn’t return to the Pittsburgh Steelers as a 37-year-old, he won’t be able to blame the young man sitting next to him in the home locker room at Heinz Field on Sunday.
After turning in another age-defying performance in helping the Steelers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 20-12 to return to the playoffs, Harrison said the decision to return next season was out of his hands.
“My little dude told me I can’t come back for another year,” he said.
“No, I did not!” was his son's response.
After what might have been the Steelers’ finest defensive performance of the season, Harrison admitted that the idea to keep playing might pop up.
“The way I feel it may drift into my head a little bit,” Harrison said. “I’ve got to keep it blocked out.”
The Steelers sacked Smith six times, their most in a game in two years, and Harrison led the charge. He sacked Smith 1.5 times and also recorded a pair of quarterback hits and two tackles for loss. Harrison’s teammates fed off his energy, and the Steelers did not need to blitz relentlessly to get to Smith.
All six of their sacks, in fact, came when they rushed four or fewer players, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The flexing of the muscles by a defense that has been maligned this season couldn’t have come at a better time. The Steelers appear to be putting everything together, and they will secure the No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs if they beat the visiting Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.
“We’re starting to mesh together, and guys are doing their job more consistently,” Harrison said. "Not too many lapses. That’s just really showed today, and that’s something we’ve got to continue to do.”
Harrison has given his younger teammates someone to follow as the 12th-year veteran has extensive postseason experience and keeps proving he can play at a high level.
“He was beast mode,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said after Harrison tied Jason Gildon for the most multisack games (17) in franchise history. “You all don’t watch the ins and outs of practice, but that happens at practice all the time.”
“He’s ageless and timeless and continues to be big for us,” Steelers linebacker Vince Williams said.
Harrison never had any intention of playing again after he announced his retirement on Sept. 5 at Steelers headquarters. The Steelers talked the five-time Pro-Bowl linebacker into playing one more season after right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones dislocated his wrist a couple of weeks into the season. But Harrison made it clear that he returned more out of a sense of obligation to his former teammates than a passion to play.
He also maintained that he would have never rejoined the Steelers had his two young sons been against the idea.
It looks like one of them would not have a problem with him playing next season as well.
So, James, any chance you will play in 2015?
“I'm worried about Cincinnati, man,” he said.
Harrison then laughed and turned around.