Rookie snapshot: Orien Harris

When the Steelers were on the clock with the 133rd selection of April's NFL draft, they couldn't have been more pleased to see 300-pound University of Miami defensive tackle Orien Harris still there for the taking.

Orien Harris and his older brother Kwame were close growing up in Newark, Delaware.

The two brothers, just a year apart in age, were star players on the Newark High School football team.

And they wanted to continue their collegiate careers together, but there was one slight problem. Kwame decided to attend prestigious Stanford University. Orien? He could only dream about getting into Stanford.

What, they didn't know he was a legacy?

"Do they do that?" Harris replied when it was brought up to him at the Pittsburgh Steelers voluntary coaching sessions.

When told no, he just shrugged. It was just as well. Harris found his own glory on the football field at Miami (Fla.), a program the Steelers' second pick of the fourth round in this year's draft said helped him prepare for life in the NFL.

"My brother and I really wanted to play together, but I didn't have the grades to go to Stanford," Harris said. "But I grew up a fan of the Hurricanes, so it worked out. I got a chance to back up some great players there and see how they played early in my career. And it really is, from what I can tell, a lot like an NFL atmosphere there. It really helps prepare you for what you're going to see in the NFL."

And there were other perks as well.

"Plus, I got to live in Miami for free for five years. Who wouldn't want to do that?" Harris said with a laugh.

Like the other rookies working with the Steelers for the first time, Harris admits his head is swimming a bit at this point.

"I'm out here trying to do what I have to do to make this team, whatever it is," he said. "There are no guarantees. I know I have to do anything to earn a spot here."

Harris was one of the top defensive line prospects in the country coming out of Newark High School. After a redshirt year at Miami, he spent his freshman season backing up the likes of Jerome McDougle, William Joseph and Vince Wilfork.

The following year, he teamed with Wilfork to give the Hurricanes one of the top defensive tackle units in the country.

But as those other players left for the NFL, more and more pressure was put on Harris to produce big plays. And getting to the quarterback just isn't his forte, though he did register 54 QB pressures at Miami.

Harris is more of a disruptive force than he is a pass rusher.

"In our scheme we aren't looking for pass rushers," said Steelers' defensive line coach John Mitchell. "He is a guy that can push the pocket, he has done a great job there. We are looking for guys like him who we can play the inside run games and stunts but no, he is not a big pass rusher and we didn't take him as a pass rusher. We took him because he's a good athlete, who can stay on his feet, who can run, has quickness and can get to the ball carrier."

That Harris can do. And he's more than happy to move outside in the 3-4 after being inside throughout his career as a 4-3 tackle at Miami.

"It's a lot of the same responsibilities, but there are some differences," Harris said. "I'm learning more and more every day. Just watching the other guys here, the veterans, helps."

Much like he did at Miami, Harris isn't expected to come in and start right away. The Steelers have veterans Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Travis Kirshke and Rodney Bailey working ahead of Harris right now.

"I'm here for all these young guys to come talk to," said Smith, who has become the elder statesman among the defensive linemen with the departure of Kimo von Oelhoffen in free agency. "Guys like Orien and Lee Vickers, they come and ask questions all the time."

Harris said it was a similar situation at Miami.

"The older players, they're trying to help you out, trying to help you learn everything as quickly as possible," Harris said. "It was the same way at Miami. You can see why guys want to come and play for the Steelers. It's like a family just like it was at Miami."

Courtesy of the Observer-Reporter


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