Age and injury are facts of life in the NFL, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have plenty of both to spare. With their long-time Ã©lite defense wearing down, is it time to clean house? James Harrison may become the man to start with.
Injury and age make Harrison and Troy Polamalu long-term risks
There's no reason to think Pittsburgh should break up the defense that has won two world championships since 2005. Together linebacker James Harrison and safety Troy Polamalu turned the Steelers defense into the best in pro football. However recent memories show the bitter truth for Steel City fans: Even the best players can't outrun father time. In addition to a long list of injuries including concussions and knees, Polamalu turned 31 in April and Harrison turned 34 in May. Worse yet Harrison, along with starting running back Rashard Mendenhall, will start training camp on the PUP list. For a team that lost to Tim Tebow in the playoffs last season, it isn't a good omen. A bigger question is how long will Pittsburgh wait before having to unload them? More so, will it go through a trade?
Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could use Harrison
Interest in Harrison starts with who the Pittsburgh Steelers are willing to deal with. Normal logic says they would prefer not playing against him, which means an NFC team. Also Harrison is a linebacker built to play in a 3-4 defense. While teams who don't have that defense would still consider him, the most realistic teams include the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Green Bay spent most of the NFL draft trying to repair a league-worst defense against the pass. Pairing Harrison with All-Pro Clay Matthews could become a short-term steal. Tampa Bay on the other had is in the middle of switching from a 4-3 scheme under head coach Greg Schiano. Last year Schiano coached for the Baltimore Ravens, a Steelers rival. He knows better than anybody what Harrison can do. The Buccaneers already kick started the overhaul when they shipped defensive tackle Brian Price to the Chicago Bears. Go after Harrison is the next step in building his core of linebackers.
The Steelers have no reason to panic on James Harrison or Troy Polamalu. The defense was still the best in the league last year, but time is running out. Trading the linebacker to teams like the Green Bay Packers or Tampa Bay Buccaneers sounds drastic but could become needed sooner or later anyway.