"James has never seen a pro sport, never wanted to go, never watched them on TV," his father, James Sr., said in the new book Steeler Nation.
"If he wasn't playing, he wasn't interested. He had heard of Jack Lambert, but as far as what Lambert had done, he didn't know anything. And I think that's one thing that really helped him when he got to the pros: He was never in awe of anybody."
But Harrison has enjoyed landmark games in Cleveland. In 2004, he made his first start after Joey Porter was ejected for a pre-game fight. In 2005, he body-slammed a fan who'd run on to the field. Last season he got the first sack off future Pro Bowler Joe Thomas in a Steelers romp.
So what does it mean to Harrison to go back to Cleveland this year?
"It means we're playing another game," he said.
"It's our first division game. Other than that, it means nothing more."
Don't good things happen when you go to Cleveland?
So, even though reporters continue to write the legend of James Harrison, James Harrison doesn't care?
"Look," he said with growing irritation. "I don't read the newspapers. I don't watch ESPN. I don't do nothing with sports. I mean, I go home and I watch cartoons. That's all I do."
BEST LB CORPS?
The Steelers got to Houston quarterback Matt Schaub five times last week, or two more times than he'd ever been sacked in a competitive football game.
"Yep, that was a lot for that group to be giving up, but we put in a good game plan," said Steelers inside backer James Farrior, who added: "We have a lot of guys who can get to the quarterback, but those guys in particular – Harrison and (LaMarr) Woodley – can get off the edge."
Farrior was asked to compare the current group of linebackers to the group that helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL.
"Both groups were talented, but this group is a little deeper," Farrior said. "I'm trying to think who our backups were back then: There was (Clint) Kriewaldt and ... James (laughs). Well, there goes that depth thing. We had pretty good depth back then, too."
CLEVELAND'S SUPER BOWL
Steelers reserve defensive lineman Nick Eason spent three seasons with the Browns, and his worst memory might be the 2006 game against the visiting Steelers, in which the Browns blew a 13-3 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
"They came out in the second half and did some driving," Eason said. "I had missed about three sacks. I actually had Ben (Roethlisberger). I thought he got rid of the ball, so I let him go, and he still had the ball. He threw it out of bounds and it kept the drive going, gave them a score, and they won. So that week I just kind of stayed home, didn't go to the grocery store, stayed out of sight and mind."
Eason said the Browns consider the Steelers to be "their Super Bowl" and that a 10th consecutive loss to the Steelers "would be catastrophic for the city, catastrophic for the players." Eason said it's easily their biggest game of the year.
"No question. When I was there with the Browns, the fans get sick about it. They're still sick about last year's first and second game. If we go down there and do a great job, they'll be sick again this year."