With the recent news that James Harrison may need another knee surgery prior to the regular season opener, the ‘minds that be’ including my own are swirling with questions. That news was confirmed today as he was in Pittsburgh to have a minor arthroscopic procedure done. The surgery was successful according to his agent, Bill Parise, (via @Albyox Twitter) and Harrison is back at St. Vincent recovering. These types of procedures are routine and the recovery time is usually only a couple of weeks. Harrison is in great shape but one still has to wonder what took so long to get this “minor procedure” taken care of? According to Mike Tomlin this afternoon at training camp, they felt this was the right time to do the procedure. Beyond that he didn’t elaborate, as is typical for the head coach.
Is this the final year for Harrison? How much more can he take? And who is going to replace him because there really isn’t anyone there to do it right now?
Harrison’ s surgery is expected to be nothing more than a simple ‘clean up’ according to his agent Bill Parise and he is still expected to be ready for the season-opening game at Denver. That’s all well and good but at what level of competitiveness can we expect ‘The Silverback’ to be at when he attempts to tear off Peyton Manning’s head?
The Steelers are already thin at the outside linebacker position with Jason Worilds also being on the PUP list. That leaves few options and even fewer with any serious experience. Sure Adrian Robinson looked awesome coming off the edge on LaMarr Woodley’s side but that was the first preseason game against other twos and threes. Is Chris Carter ready and capable of standing in there? What about Brandon Johnson, the former Bengal who looked very good last week in Philly?
Chances are, we are going to see Lawrence Timmons once again forced to abandon his inside linebacking position to play on the outside. That means Sean Spence, Stevenson Sylvester and Larry Foote on the inside. While I like all three guys I like them better when Timmons is playing there as well.
Or another option would be to keep Timmons and Foote on the inside and leave the pass rush duties up to Chris Carter for example. Either way it doesn’t inspire much confidence and will disrupt the Steelers most valuable attacking position on the field.
Perhaps the bigger issue in this entire deal is have the Steelers done enough to address the situation? For all we know, James Harrison could play in 14 of 16 games this season and be as dominant as ever. Or… He could be hobbled most of the year and our defense will be left to a mere shell of itself because of a lack of detail in finding a proper back up.
I can’t say the Steelers haven’t tried. Worilds has been a bit of a disappointment, but has shown some flashes at times. Whatever comes of this latest issue with James Harrison, it is most assuredly one of the last. With his decreasing health and large salary, I’m wondering if he will be back in 2013.
Whether he’s back or not, I look for the Steelers to seriously consider going pass rush at outside linebacker in the draft next year. They have been solid at replenishing their corp of linebackers over the decades but their hand might be forced more than they’ll let on next offseason.