One-on-one with James Harrison

James Harrison looks much more comfortable with the Steelers this season than he did last year. Perhaps that's because Harrison not only knows his role with the team, he knows that he has one.

A year ago, that wasn't the case, as Harrison was signed by the Steelers at the beginning of training camp after a slew of injuries left the team with little depth at outside linebacker.

Harrison, who had been with the Steelers as a rookie, had spent some time with Baltimore, but was released during the offseason by the Ravens. A man without a team at that point, he jumped at the chance to come back to Pittsburgh and played well enough in spot duty last season that the team has elevated him to its top backup outside linebacker position while also working him at inside linebacker as well.

Following is a question an answer with Harrison:

Q: It must feel pretty good to actually have a home this year. Last year at this time, you were a man without a country.
JH: No doubt. I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But I'm here now and I'm just trying to do my job.

Q: You're working with the first team while Joey (Porter) is not here. That has to feel pretty good.
JH: Yeah. I'm getting a lot of work in. I'm filling in for Joey and trying to learn inside as well. But I welcome the challenge.

Q: How is that transition inside going?
JH: I actually like playing inside better. That's where all the action is. I've made some bad reads here and there, but it's a learning process.

Q: What's the difference for you?
JH: You read and react to different stuff. Like I said, a couple of times, I read wrong and had to get up out of there. I was used to being on the outside and reading it differently.

Q: Most people would think you would like the outside better because that's where the glory is. But you said you liked inside better. Why?
JH: That's where the glory is on the outside, but all of the action is inside. There's more contact.

Q: In this defense, the linebackers are the guys who make it go. That's something that has to be very appealing as a player?
JH: It feels good to be in a defense that the key is the linebackers. Nine times out of 10, when there's a play made on this team, it's by the linebackers.

Q: Is there too big an emphasis placed on a player's height?
JH: For me, I feel that it is because I'm a guy that's short. But it all comes down to if you can play the game or not. If you can play the game, I don't care what size you are. You can have a guy who's the prototype linebacker, but he just can't play the game. You can have a guy that's 5-8 and he can play it.

Q: What's the biggest thing you need to improve on?
JH: I need to continue to learn, especially inside and improve my speed.

Q: How do you do that?
JH: Speed training.

Q: Is that lifting weights?
JH: No, it's working with chutes and stuff like that and on your first step.


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