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Mike Tomlin not surprised by a rejuvenated James Harrison

PITTSBURGH – When the Pittsburgh Steelers released James Harrison in 2013 after the two sides could not agree on a pay cut, Mike Tomlin did not try to avoid Harrison.

Nor could the Steelers coach have so done so even had he wanted to steer clear of the veteran outside linebacker.

“He has a house down the street from me,” Tomlin said laughing.

Harrison is back in that house full-time, and he is making himself even more at home with the Steelers.

Harrison, whom the Steelers talked out of retirement less than two months ago, has four sacks in his last two games.

He has been such a pass-rushing force against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Baltimore Falcons quarterback Joe Flacco in the last two weeks that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger quipped, “It’s fun watching the young fella Harrison get after quarterbacks.”

Harrison, who is 36, has stalked quarterbacks like he did when he made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 2007-11.

And he is still not where he wants to be from a football conditioning standpoint.

Go figure.

“I think that the longer I’m in this business I’ve come to expect unique results from unique people,” Tomlin said. “There’s no question that James doesn’t fit the norm in a lot of ways and his play [is] probably chief among them. I’m not surprised when he does things that are seemingly against odds and so forth. James is a guy that was cut three times early in his career and went on to become a perennial Pro Bowler and NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“That’s seemingly against the odds. So I think that kind of defines his career and how he goes about playing football. I think he’s really charged by that and rejuvenated by those type [of] challenges and being able to prove people wrong and do things that he seemingly is unable to do.”

Harrison’s four sacks lead the Steelers, and he is fourth in quarterback pressures (nine) despite not playing until the fourth game of the season.

That Harrison is defying odds after what could have been an acrimonious break-up with the Steelers is not surprising to Tomlin.

“He’s one of those guys that’s a Steeler for life regardless of what uniform he wears. He respects our shared history [and] we respect our shared history," the eighth-year coach said. "So I think it just naturally makes it easier to come back together. Oftentimes decisions that are made in this business are tough ones but they’re just, that they’re business. They are not personal. We took it as such and I think he took it as such and I think it made it easier for us to come back together."