James Harrison's summer work in weight room, not Steelers' practice

PITTSBURGH -- James Harrison never rests in the weight room, but he does on the field in the summer months.

The Pittsburgh Steelers make sure of it.

Harrison was in street clothes during individual drills on the last day of minicamp, and he wasn't in the media's open locker room sessions throughout the three-day camp. The Steelers trust Harrison, 39, to do his own thing in offseason workouts while giving reps to younger players.

Training camp will yield a similar setup. On some days, he will be in heavy sweats underneath his uniform but won't be participating in 11-man work.

"How old is he, 39? Yeah, we’re going to try to handle him, but who has handled that dude? Nobody has," defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. "We’re going to see how he goes and see what happens in St. Vincent. He’s not going to go the whole training camp without practicing at all, but that will be entirely up to [head coach] Mike [Tomlin]."

Harrison's summer reps have gone to first-round rookie T.J. Watt, whom Butler says has done a "good job picking up the defense."

And that's sort of the point. Harrison has "been in this defense forever," outside linebackers coach Joey Porter said. There's nothing new he needs to learn, and Tomlin is known to take care of veterans with rest days.

In that regard, it's good to be James Harrison.

"It's good for the young guys to get the reps," Porter said. "Right now we're not gong to ask him to do a whole lot. The defense is learning, getting comfortable."

When Harrison does get in on the practice action, teammates will feel his presence through the force of his pads.