PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers are No. 16 in the NFL in total defense (357.9 yards allowed per game) and No. 21 in scoring defense (24.5 points allowed per game).
And the reality is the Steelers have been a middling defense for the last couple of seasons after playing it at an absurdly high level for the better part of a decade
There are numerous reasons why the unit has fallen off. One James Harrison won't entertain is that age has caught up with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who turned 77 in early September.
"It's nothing about Dick LeBeau is getting too old," the veteran outside linebacker said. "You've got a bunch of idiots that don't know what they're talking about when they say that so I do take it a little personal."
Harrison is doing his part to defend LeBeau's reputation as well as restore the intimidation factor to a defense that has too often lacked it recently.
Harrison recorded his 15th multi-sack game while with the Steelers in a 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, though it didn't become official until Wednesday -- three days after Pittsburgh's victory.
Harrison had been credited with a sack of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Elias Sports gave the 36-year-old Harrison a second sack on Wednesday, taking one that had been credited to strong safety Troy Polamalu.
"That's messed up," Polamalu said.
Then he laughed and conceded that Elias had been correct in crediting Harrison with both of the sacks that the Steelers managed against the Colts.
It seemed like old times in the Steelers' locker room on Wednesday with Polamalu and Harrison joking around. Moments like the one the two longtime teammates shared after practice almost didn't happen.
Harrison was content to walk away from the game when he officially retired in early September. When Jarvis Jones went down with a dislocated wrist a couple of weeks later and the Steelers needed immediate help at outside linebacker, Polamalu was among those who helped coax Harrison out of retirement.
Harrison said he would not have returned for any other team -- and that he would not have done so had his two sons been against it.
Even more than a month after coming out of retirement, Harrison still seems a little conflicted about having to put on hold his promise to spend more time with his sons.
"The big thing is not having that time with my kids like now. If I'm lucky I may get a few hours a week," Harrison said. "Being back right now it's still kind of hard because you're missing that time with them, you're missing those moments that you can't get back."
What Harrison has been getting back is his legs after not doing any football-related drills for more than nine months and it is showing.
Harrison, who is sharing snaps with Arthur Moats at right outside linebacker, helped the Steelers put consistent pressure on Luck last Sunday. That and the number of times that the Steelers hit Luck could bode well for the defense in the second half of the season.
"I like the direction we're going in," Harrison said. "We still have a lot of things we need to get better at."