Harrison wins team MVP

James Harrison loves to bust reporters' chops with one-word answers. But this was Christmas Eve, so the Pittsburgh Steelers' two-time MVP played nice.

PITTSBURGH – Someone once gave James Harrison a red dirt bike for Christmas, but he broke it in half within six months.

"I rode it too much," said Harrison.

Harrison won't be able to break this year's Christmas present in half. His Christmas present is the Steelers' Most Valuable Player Award, voted upon by Harrison's teammates.

"It's respect," Harrison said. "It's a sign they admire you and think you're a valuable part of the team."

The award is the second in a row for Harrison, the first Steelers player to do so outright since Levon Kirkland in 1998 and 1999.

With a game remaining Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, Harrison has a team-record 16 sacks and leads the league with seven forced fumbles. Harrison is second on the team to James Farrior with 68 solo tackles and third behind Farrior and Ryan Clark with a career-high 100 total tackles. He leads the team with 34 quarterback pressures, has intercepted a pass, and made 12 special-teams tackles.

Last year, Harrison won the award with 67 solo tackles, 80 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 16 pressures, an interception, six forced fumbles, and 12 special-teams tackles.

His goal this year was to be better than last year, and he says he did that. To what does he attribute the improvement?

"Just offseason work," he said, "and just really getting a good feel for myself and an understanding of the defense, the other 10 guys around me doing their job, Coach (Dick) LeBeau calling a great defense, great coaching by Coach (Keith) Butler at linebacker; just everything together."

Harrison, of course, is in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. No less an authority on defensive football than Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy endorsed Harrison for the overall MVP award last week.

"It's flattering," Harrison said. "That's a guy everybody has respect for."

When asked whether he'd prefer to win the league award or the team award, Harrison said, "The Super Bowl would mean everything on top of all that." He then made a Christmas wish "to play until I'm 50. I'm 30 now, so that's 20 Super Bowls, 20 Pro Bowls, 20 MVPs." Not many doubt him.

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