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Old 08-13-2005, 12:11 AM   #1
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Cool I wasn't hired for my disposition..

No, we aren't talking about the great Greg Lloyd, but rather the newest, meanest, nastiest, toughest, dude to hit the field on defense..

James Harrison is the meanest, nastiest, roughest, toughest, ultra-menacing man in a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform.
And then some.

"I believe I'm the toughest guy in the world," said the Steelers linebacker, who wasn't getting an argument from those standing around him Thursday afternoon.

Harrison is built from granite, with muscles rippling over muscles rippling over more muscles. He is Leroy Brown in football cleats - the baddest cat in town.

"That's a mean dude," running back Jerome Bettis said of Harrison, who's moved into Joey Porter's starting outside linebacker spot while the latter recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. "Just plain mean."

And nasty.

"He's in another world - the guy lifts weights three times a day," wideout Antwaan Randle El said. "Three-e-e-e ... times ... a day! The guy is scary."

And ferocious.

"He brings a tough persona to our football team," linebackers coach Keith Butler said. "And, he does not shy away from contact."

Contact? How's this for contact? Since the start of full-contact drills at training camp, Harrison has mauled first-round draft pick Heath Miller, annihilated running back Willie Parker and buried free-agent signee Chad Scott.

Those are just samplings, as Harrison is making a highlight-film collection of bone-jarring blasts.

He apologizes for none of them.

"Superman ain't got nothing on me," said Harrison, who was reminded that kryptonite defeats Superman. "Kryptonite? C'mon now."

If you would have closed your eyes and simply listened to Harrison yesterday, he sounded much like the man he is temporarily replacing, Porter (who is expected to be back in a month). But in reality, Harrison is much more reserved than Porter, the Steelers' resident trash talker.

"It's just that you're never going to hear me say that somebody is tougher than me," Harrison said. "Because I don't believe somebody else could be tougher than me."

Harrison playfully called himself a, "huggable, Teddy Bear off the field," though he is far from it when steps between the lines. His disposition enables him to play with reckless abandon and to maximize every fraction of his compact, 6-foot, 242-pound frame.

The Steelers are so enamored with him that he is their top backup at three of the four linebacker spots, making him a valuable commodity at a position that lacks experienced depth.

"We feel like he can be a starter in this league, and we don't feel like there's much lost if one our linebackers goes down because of his versatility," Butler said.

The Steelers leaned heavily last season on Harrison, who's career got resurrected when starting outside linebacker Clark Haggans broke his hand on the eve of training camp. The Steelers signed Harrison at the last minute.

"I was sitting at home looking for a job, a real job, not a football job," said Harrison, who was shuttled on and off the Steelers' roster and practice squad in '02 and '03, then signed and released by the Baltimore Ravens before the '04 season. "I was giving up on this."

Harrison got his first career start at Cleveland when Porter was ejected for a pre-game brawl. He responded with a sack, six tackles and a quarterback pressure. The fiery linebacker started the final three games for the injured Haggans and produced 13 tackles, four quarterback hurries and a fumble return for a touchdown. He also was a special teams ace.

Now, he is being asked to fill in for Porter as long as needed, which he assured won't be a problem.

"I feel good about the opportunity to be a starter," he said, sporting his "natural intimidating look." "But I feel bad about the way I got it."
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