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Old 12-01-2008, 06:25 AM   #1
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Default Even injured, Harrison's a terror

Even injured, Harrison's a terror
Monday, December 01, 2008
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- James Farrior didn't know. Neither did Aaron Smith. None of the Steelers had any clue that linebacker James Harrison couldn't walk across the Gillette Stadium field at halftime yesterday because of a hyperextended back and needed to be wheeled on a cart to the locker room.

"Just imagine what he would have done in the second half if he had been feeling good," Smith said, fairly giggling.

No kidding.

Harrison made another strong case for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award by leading the Steelers to a 33-10 victory against the New England Patriots in a game they desperately needed as the playoff race hit the three-quarter pole. Twice in the second half, he blew by Pro Bowl tackle Matt Light, rattled quarterback Matt Cassel and forced fumbles that the Steelers recovered. They were his 13th and 14th sacks of the season and, with four games left, he will surely break Mike Merriweather's team record of 15 set in 1987.

What made this Harrison performance so amazing -- in a game the Steelers' No. 1-rated defense also forced Cassel into two interceptions and held the Patriots to 267 total yards -- was that back issue. He said he was hurt on a missed field goal by the Patriots on the next-to-last play of the second quarter.

"Honestly? No, I didn't think I was going to be able to [play in the second half]," Harrison said.

Credit modern medicine.

"They put something hot on it that's still hot right now," Harrison said, nearly an hour after the game. "It still feels like my skin is on fire ...

"I'm sure I'm going to really hurt tomorrow. But that's OK. That's football. This isn't ice skating."

Harrison can take comfort knowing Cassel and the Patriots are aching a lot worse today. Their playoff chances took a huge hit with this loss. Their offense clearly was overmatched by the Steelers' defense and was shut out in the second half. The game's key statistic: The Patriots were 1 of 13 on third down.

Harrison wasn't the only star.

"The defense, well, they were their usual selves," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

Fired-up nose tackle Casey Hampton -- angry about a defensive holding call against him two plays earlier -- busted up center Dan Koppen to sack Cassel on second-and-1 at the Steelers' 31 early in the third quarter to take the Patriots out of field-goal range. "Yeah, I was mad," the man they call Big Snack said. "After the sack, I told the ref, 'Hold that!' "

Smith played his usual terrific game, sharing a sack of Cassel with Farrior and tackling running back Kevin Faulk for a 5-yard loss on a screen pass. So did safety Troy Polamalu, who hit Cassel to force an incompletion on a third-and-2 play at the Steelers' 11 and later had an interception for the third consecutive game, his sixth of the season.

This just wasn't Cassel's day.

It's funny. There was much talk in New England last week about the Patriots maybe trading injured Tom Brady and going into the future with Cassel, who had thrown for 400 yards in the two previous games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins.

Two quick observations:

One, that wasn't the Jets' or Dolphins' defense that Cassel faced yesterday.

And two, Cassel ain't no Brady in any way, shape or form.

"Tell you the truth, I don't think he's ever been hit like that," Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said.

Cassel was sacked five times. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley got him late in the game, bringing his sack total for the season to 11 1/2. He and Harrison are the most prolific pair of pass rushers in Steelers history.

No wonder Cassel had a rough day.

"It seemed like we had him flustered," Hoke said.

Harrison has been known to have that kind of impact on quarterbacks. In addition to the two strip sacks of Cassel and the forced fumbles, he was credited with a team-high nine tackles, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hurry.

"Not to take it for granted, but that's what we've come to expect from him," Tomlin said.

"He took over the game," Farrior said. "It just seems like he's able to take it to another level whenever he wants."

"It's unbelievable what he does," Smith said. "I don't know how to describe it. Every time we need something, it seems like he comes up with it for us."

You might guess who gets the Steelers' vote for that NFL Defensive Player of the Year thing.

"I know there are some great players in this league," Smith said. "But find me someone else who does it with his consistency. Find me someone else who does it week in and week out the way he does it."

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and the Cowboys are next for Harrison and the Steelers.

I'm happy to report Harrison said his back should be fine for the game Sunday at Heinz Field.

On second thought, maybe that isn't such a good thing.

Said Smith, "We all should be lucky enough to play healthy the way he plays hurt."

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/08336/931927-87.stm
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:42 AM   #2
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

you cant restrain the silverback
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

He's nasty....Our linebackers are always among the best in the league.
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:45 AM   #4
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

Quote:
Strip sack
Adding insult to injury.
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:54 AM   #5
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

It still boggles the mind how this guy bounced around for so long before he finally got his break!

Players like Harrison, Parker, and Dan Krieder prove the college draft isn't all it's cracked up to be!
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:23 AM   #6
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

I'm happy he was able to come back after halftime. The game could have been a whole lot different had he not.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

GREAT article! I especially loved this from Hampton:

Quote:
Originally Posted by lamberts-lost-tooth View Post

"Yeah, I was mad," the man they call Big Snack said. "After the sack, I told the ref, 'Hold that!' "
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:34 AM   #8
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

I saw him get carted off and my heart just sank. Seeing him come out and play injured giving it his all sure shows the will power this animal has.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

Harrison is a beast... there is no other way to put it.
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Old 12-01-2008, 12:02 PM   #10
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Default Re: Even injured, Harrison's a terror

i saw him get carted off too i was worried but once i saw him come back and dominate that second half assured me that hell be fine. hopefully hell be able to play against the cowboys.
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