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Tuitt on Harrison: 'That's storybook stuff'

Posted Oct 16, 2017

Late sack from ageless linebacker helps seal the deal in KC.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ The plan all along had been to unleash James Harrison, to a degree, against the Chiefs.

But Harrison still managed to amaze his teammates by making one of the plays of the game on Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs had the ball at the Steelers’ 40-yard line and had 1:07 of the fourth quarter remaining, enough time to steal the game. But on third-and-10 Harrison beat offensive tackle Eric Fisher and sacked quarterback Alex Smith for an 8-yard loss.

Following a fourth-and-18 incompletion it was time for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to take a knee.

And it was time for the Steelers to celebrate Harrison’s critical contribution to their hard-fought, 19-13 victory over the previously-unbeaten Chiefs.

“That was amazing, man,” center Maurkice Pouncey gushed. “Golly, I love that dude. I’ve always loved him ever since I’ve been here.

“He’s been a phenomenal player, a great leader on our team. He plays his role. He’s doing what he’s asked. He went out there and made a play.”

Harrison had been inactive for the Steelers’ previous two games and had dressed for but didn’t play in their win over Minnesota on Sept. 17.

But with his history of success against Fisher, up to and including the Steelers’ playoff win in January at Arrowhead, Harrison was called upon once again to do what he does.

He opened a couple of series at right outside linebacker in place of T.J. Watt, and was also sent in periodically for Watt in passing situations, as Anthony Chickillo was for Bud Dupree on the other side.

Harrison had played seven defensive snaps over the course of the Steelers’ first five games.

He inflicted his damage upon Kansas City in 15 snaps.

“For some of the younger guys it’s just the lore of him, they haven’t really seen it yet,” Roethlisberger said. “For me, when he was out there at the end, I was just thinking, ‘He’s either going to get a hold or he’s going to get a sack.’

“We’ve been together so long, it just really made me smile. It made my heart warm.”

Harrison ended up with three tackles (all solo), a sack, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.

“That’s storybook stuff,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “That’s awesome.”

Added offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva: “Nothing surprises (Harrison). I go into a stadium like this and I still feel the jitters, I still feel the unknown. But a guy like him who has been playing for so long and at such a high level, he’s mastered a skill and it showed. That’s exactly why James Harrison was a defensive MVP. That’s why he’s still playing football, because he’s so valuable, works so hard and he’s determined to do his job on the field.”

Harrison appreciated still being in a position to make such a play.

“I’m 39 years old and I’m still playing a young man’s game,” he said. “I’m extremely blessed and highly favored. This is all God’s doing; I’m just sitting back, riding the bus.

“I pray harder than I prepare but I still try and prepare myself. It’s satisfying to get the win, that’s the big thing.”

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL: Wide receiver Antonio Brown’s last catch went for 51 yards and a touchdown, but not before Roethlisberger’s throw on third-and-2 from the Steelers’ 49 bounced off the hands and helmet of Chiefs cornerback Patrick Gaines, who had been in position to make an interception. Brown grabbed the deflection at the Chiefs’ 33, avoided safety Daniel Sorensen, who appeared to be trying to make a play on Brown rather than the ball, and then beat cornerback Terrance Mitchell to the pylon on a sprint down the sideline.

“Ben made a great throw, those guys had a mishap, I was able to stay with the ball,” Brown said. “Any time any he gives me an opportunity to make a play, it’s always great throws. He put a lot of zing on it, those guys couldn't catch it.

“I was able to get the bounce and get in the end zone.”

Brown’s TD gave the Steelers a 19-10 lead.

He finished with eight catches on 10 targets for 155 yards and a touchdown.

LOOKING AHEAD: The Chiefs came in at 5-0 but the Steelers improved to 4-2 in what might have been the first of multiple meetings with Kansas City this season.

“It’s a really big win, especially against a team that we’ll hopefully most likely see in January, if I were to guess,” guard David DeCastro said. “It’s big to get that win right now.”

DEFENSIVE STATEMENT: The Chiefs had been lighting up scoreboards all season, but the Steelers held them to 12 first downs, 251 total net yards and a 27-percent success rate on third downs (3-for-11).

“We played a good defensive game,” Tuitt said. “We finally got a chance to show everybody on TV who we are. It’s getting hot now, the middle of the season is about to come up. We gotta keep pushing.”

“We needed that. That was a big confidence booster for us. We’re a good defense. We just have to keep it consistent.”

Inside linebacker Vince Williams thought the defensive performance against the Chiefs was more representative than what had happened in Chicago and against Jacksonville, games in which the Steelers had surrendered more than 200 yards rushing.

“Definitely,” said Williams, who had a pair of sacks before exiting with a hip injury. “This is what we expect to do. Actually, we should have played better. We gave up too many big plays.

“We just wanted to come out here and play well because last week we lost at home and we felt a little embarrassed. We just wanted to come out here and lay down the law.”

HE SAID IT: “Especially in critical moments of the game, he’s just a sack waiting to happen.” _ Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier on Harrison.