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Harrison back to first team with Steelers

James Harrison talks about his return to the starting lineup, being on the cusp of the franchise sack record and his plans beyond this season.

PITTSBURGH -- It started in Cleveland, back in 2004, the mid-November day when Joey Porter got into it with William Green during pregame warmups.

Porter was ejected, and his backup, Alonzo Jackson, had already been deactivated for the day because he couldn't play special teams the way the third OLB -- the guy who grew up 45 minutes away -- could play special teams.

So, that third OLB, James Harrison, was left to make his first start for the Steelers.

Harrison led the team in tackles that day, and in the middle of the third quarter, with the Steelers holding a 14-3 lead and the Browns at midfield, Harrison sacked Jeff Garcia on a third down.

One hundred starts and 75.5 sacks later, Harrison heads back to Cleveland as a starter once again.

He's been promoted to the first team, and, at age 38, will break the franchise record for sacks with his next one.

"It would be pretty cool if I could have my first and the one that breaks the record be in the same place," said Harrison. "I guess that would be historic, wouldn't it?"

Harrison has 76.5 sacks, a half of a sack behind Jason Gildon. Harrison thought he had that half-sack last Sunday against Dak Prescott, but Stephon Tuitt just beat Harrison to it and was given the full sack.

But Harrison, in fact, did in that game what so few have done to Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith in any game: Harrison found success. He had the one hit with Tuitt, and also pressured Prescott, both in limited playing time as part of a rotation with Jarvis Jones.

Yet, even though Harrison was one of the few Steelers to put heat on the quarterback during the game, it was Jones on the field for the Steelers during the Cowboys' game-winning drive. Jones played the wrong technique and didn't fill the correct gap -- the one through which Ezekiel Elliott bolted for the 32-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining -- and ended up losing his job. That final play was one of the primary reasons the coaching staff decided to promote Harrison, who just shrugs and soldiers on.

"It's, I guess, what they want to do at this time," he said. "I just go out there and do what it is that I'm asked to do."

Harrison does admit to wanting to have been on the field for that final series.

"Of course I wanted to be out there," he said. "I want to be in there every play. That's just me. Anybody that's a competitor would want to be in there. But, that's the person they chose to be there at that time and that's what they went with."

Harrison has tried to warm to the rotation that's been arranged with Jones, but, being superbly conditioned, Harrison doesn't believe that kind of rest is necessary.

"I feel I play better when I play more," he said. "I feel like the less that I play, I don't get a feel for the game, I don't get a feel for the person that I'm going against."

Pass-rushers not only get a feel for their opponent, they "do certain things to try and set up other things," Harrison said.

He only has two sacks this season, but those occurred two games ago against the Baltimore Ravens. It was his 19th multiple-sack game, adding to his franchise record. He also forced the 32nd fumble of his career.

That game, followed up by his impressive showing against a tackle regarded by many as the best in the league, showed that Harrison still has some juice left.

"I don't feel myself coming to the end, to be honest with you," he said.

How does he see his future?

"I'll play this year out, and hopefully it ends with a Lombardi," Harrison said. "But if it doesn't, it doesn't, and I'll see what I do from there. The way I feel now, I feel I can play until I'm at least 40. We'll see."

NOTES -- DL Cameron Heyward is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is out Sunday with a foot injury. Also missing practice Wednesday were C Maurkice Pouncey (thumb), S Shamarko Thomas (groin), WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder) and RB DeAngelo Williams (knee). Limited in practice were WR Sammie Coates (fingers), S Jordan Dangerfield (groin), TE Ladarius Green (knee) and TE Xavier Grimble (quadricep).


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