|2002 - 2012||Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2013||Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals|
|2014 - 2017||Linebacker, Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2017||Linebacker, New England Patriots|
|Super Bowl||XL, XLIII|
|Pro Bowl||2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011|
|AP Defensive Player of the Year||2008|
|Hall of Honor||2023|
His name is often mentioned in the same breath as some of the best linebackers ever to play for the Steelers, and rightfully so.
Because James Harrison did the same thing some of the great linebackers before him did. He changed the outcome of games with his play, caused offensive coordinators to lose sleep, and dominated on defense game in and game out.
"I don't feel like I am up there as being one of the legendary linebackers the Steelers had," Harrison once said. "There are some big names up there to compete with. Just to have my name in the argument feels very good to me."
And rest assured, his name will be in more than the argument. He will always be a part of the Steelers lore. Harrison was one of the most menacing linebackers ever to play for the Steelers.
It's hard to imagine that Harrison entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie, signing with the Steelers in 2002. It wasn't an easy road for him. He was released before the start of the 2002 season, signed to the practice squad, and then activated late that season. He didn't play in the NFL at all in 2003.
The tide turned when he landed on to the 53-man roster in 2004 and played in 16 games, starting four of them. He is easily the poster child for never quitting, not letting the ups and downs keep him from pursuing his dream, a dream that led to a long career.
"James is probably one of the best football players I have ever been around, but he is a great guy and friend," said Smith. "To have him go in with me, playing on the same defense and the things we did, it's great. It's really special."
Harrison originally retired from the Steelers in 2014 but made a return to the black and gold three weeks later when injuries left the team without depth at his spot. He remained with the black and gold into the 2017 season, finishing out the season and his career with the New England Patriots.
For many fans though, it will always come back to that play in Super Bowl XLIII. The Cardinals had the ball at the one-yard line with 18 seconds to play in the half and the Steelers holding a slim three-point lead. Harrison stepped in front of a Kurt Warner pass and rambled down the sideline for 100 yards, sending the Steelers into the half up 17-7 and taking the wind out of the Cardinals sails.
Harrison was named the AFC and NFL's Defensive Player of the Year during that 2008 Super Bowl season, setting a then Steelers' single-season record with 16 sacks, which was broken by T.J. Watt when he had 22.5 sacks in 2021. He was voted to the Pro Bowl five consecutive years (2007-11) and twice voted Steelers MVP (2007-08).
Harrison held the Steelers all-time sack leader with 80.5 sacks, until Watt broke that record against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2 of the season with 81.5 career sacks at that point. Harrison was at the game at Acricure Stadium to cheer Watt on.
"It's great," said Harrison that night. "That is the whole reason I came, so I could be here in person to see it. Records are meant to be broken and that was one I was happy to see go down, especially watching it here.
"It's simple. It's guys that played here wanting to see guys that are currently playing do better and greater things than what the previous group did and holding up what that Steelers' lore is."
And Watt was more than appreciative of Harrison's presence that night.
"It's the Deebo way," said Watt, referencing Harrison by his nickname. "I didn't even know he was there. And that that's what's so cool about it is I'm sure he didn't care that anyone knew he was there.
"It really is special. I am so thankful that Deebo is so accepting and happy for me. He helped me when he was here, and he didn't have to. But he really took me under his wing and was able to help me grow and develop as a player as a rookie."
Take a look at some of the best photos from the career of Steelers LB James Harrison.