PITTSBURGH – James Harrison spent so much time in the Indianapolis backfield hitting 40-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and 32-year-old running back Frank Gore that it looked like an AARP meeting.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 37-year-old linebacker helped put the finishing touches on a 45-10 demolition Sunday night of the Colts with three fourth-quarter sacks, including a sack-strip of Hasselbeck that sent the quarterback to the sidelines in time for the early bird special with neck and shoulder injuries.
“James needs to buy that tackle dinner,” said defensive end Cameron Heyward. “To get three sacks in one quarter is big. He got the sack lead in one quarter.”
Harrison had been stuck on two sacks this season for several weeks as he struggled through a knee injury that kept him out of the team’s win over Cleveland a couple of weeks ago.
Given the way he played Sunday night, the team might get him a walker and let him keep going, especially if he continues to have performances as he did against the Colts.
Not only was it much-needed after last Sunday’s 39-30 loss at Seattle, it was a dominating performance both offensively and defensively.
“Obviously, we were pissed off about our performance last week, so we had to take it out on somebody,” said safety Mike Mitchell.
But Harrison wouldn’t let everyone else enjoy the party. He was too busy being a one-man wrecking crew in the fourth quarter.
“Midway through fourth quarter, I told him to stop getting sacks so we could actually get some balls down the field,” Mitchell said.
Said Harrison: “He told me to just get there a second late so he can throw a duck ball and they can get a pick."
That wasn’t happening.
Harrison, whose forced fumble was the 30th of his career, now has 74.5 sacks in his career, 2.5 behind Jason Gildon for the most in team history.
Harrison has split time at outside linebacker with Jarvis Jones – who had a key interception in the first quarter. And even though Harrison should be slowing down, he isn’t thinking about retirement.
“I’ve still got another year on the contract,” he said. “I’m not even thinking about that right now, to be honest with you. I can’t think any farther ahead than the next game. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”
The situation to which Harrison was referring is the team’s playoff hopes.
Pittsburgh is now 7-5 but faces the AFC’s top two seeds, Cincinnati (10-2) and Denver (10-2), in the next two weeks.
“Things could be worse, things could be better,” said Harrison. “We’ll deal with it on a weekly basis and hopefully be where we want to be when everything is said and done.”
* Antonio Brown's 71-yard punt return for a touchdown was the fourth of his career, tying him with Antwaan Randle El for the most in team history.
Not bad for a guy whom Mike Tomlin has been trying to replace this season – because Brown is such a valuable part of the offense.
The team attempted to mold Dri Archer into a punt returner throughout the offseason and training camp, but that didn’t work out.
Then, when Jacoby Jones became available following his release by San Diego last month, the Steelers released Archer and signed Jones, handing him the kick and punt return duties.
But after Jones fumbled the opening kickoff and then muffed a punt in the second quarter that the Steelers were fortunate to fall on, Tomlin had seen enough.
“It was obvious that he wasn’t holding onto the ball,” said Tomlin. “Although they are established guys and you would like to preserve them in those instances if you can, under the circumstance, I didn’t feel we could because he wasn’t holding onto the ball.
Brown was back. He celebrated his return on his second attempt, catching a punt from Pat McAfee at the Pittsburgh 29 and shooting up the middle of the field for a score. There was no front flip at the end of this long touchdown as he had done a few weeks ago against Cleveland.This time, he leaped onto the goal post, drawing a penalty.
“I didn’t see it,” Tomlin said of Brown’s latest leap. “But I’m sure we’ll rehash it and rehash it 1,000 times in the next six days and suck the life out of it.”
@ Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano was pretty blunt in his assessment of the game.
“They kicked our ass,” Pagano said. “Period. We had some opportunities early in that ballgame, and we did not capitalize on those.”
That was huge. Indianapolis took possession of the ball four times on Pittsburgh’s side of the 50 in this game and scored 10 points off of those chances.
The first came on Jacoby Jones’ fumble on the opening kickoff. The second was on the next possession following a fumble by DeAngelo Williams. Indianapolis recovered at the Pittsburgh 25 and managed just a field goal after failing to get a first down.
“I went by and I thanked every one of (the defensive players) for bailing me out because that was big,” said Williams, who finished with 134 yards on 26 carries. “That’s huge right there.”
(Be sure to read notes from Jim Wexell and The Crispy Rat on the South Side message board.)