Watch Tower: James Harrison’s Return, “Steelers Way,” Goodell, and More

The NFL’s season is 3 weeks old and finds the Pittsburgh Steelers 1-2 and down three starters all on defense. There’s a lot of news, but the Watch Tower’s focus begins with the unretirement of James Harrison.

Dumping Cold Water on Debo’s Return?

The Pittsburgh Steelers responded to the loss of Jarvis Jones by bringing back former AFC Defensive player of the year, James Harrison. Yes, the same James Harrison who only returned to retire in Pittsburgh 18 days before.

Mike Tomlin, James Harrison, Selfie, Debo, Silverback, return, retire
Tomlin & Silverback Share Selfie

Judging by reaction on social media the move was met by near euphoria within Steelers Nation.

PaVa Steelers Fan of Behind the Steel Curtain (full disclosure, I am also an occasional contributor at BTSC) went so far as to paint a mystical connection between James Harrison’s return and the numeral 7. Fair enough, his piece was somewhat tongue and cheek, but it did capture the sense of destiny that accompanied Harrison’s return.

The Harrison story dominated Steelers press coverage throughout the week, from Tomlin’s press conference to his first practice to locker room interviews with the rest of the team.

  • After the feel good buzz, reality began to set it.

John Philips, of 93.7 The Fan, proclaimed his love for Silverback, but pointed to the obvious questions about his age and his time in Cincinnati and finished a piece on BTSC saying “Nostalgia is fun, but not when you want to win in the NFL.”

Dale Lolley drew a contrast between Harrison and Brett Keisel, indicating that Keisel actively wanted back, but that Harrison had to be coaxed back by conversations with Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu. Lolley even went as far as to quote Chuck Noll’s old adage, “If you’re thinking about retiring, you probably should.”

On ESPN, Scott Brown reached out to former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik, who predicted that “I think at the end of the day you’ll be lucky if James Harrison become a 20- to 25-snap guy.”

  • Not everyone in the professional press was down on the move however.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was one of the first to suggest the move, and downplayed some of the age issues, pointing out that former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene excelled as a pass rushing linebacker into his late 30’s. Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review quoted Pro Football Focus figures rating Harrison as 8th among 4-3 linebackers last year, despite his limited time, and his ranking of third vs. the run.

Steelers, Goodell Link Explored

Steelers Nation has no love lost for Roger Goodell and has been vocal in criticizing him over the Ray Rice fiasco.

But little has been said or written about Art Rooney II’s role in leading the investigation, with the exception of Dejan Kovaevic. After taking Goodell to task an raising questions about his “investigation” Kovaevic takes the bold step of questioning Rooney’s role in supervising the investigation.

That’s somewhat of a gutsy move, as the Steelers have bent their strict rule on no press credentials for internet journalists for Kovaevic, who launched his own site during August.

Steel honed in on the Steelers role as the lone dissenters in approving the 2011 CBA, and made the rather astute observation that since making that vote, the Steelers have played all of their Thursday Night games on the road. (The rest of Steel’s column deals with Goodell’s hypocrisy and is well worth the read.)

Speaking of Domestic Violence…

The Ray Rice scandal might only involve Goodell and the Ravens, but the story is touching the entire NFL. William Gay’s life experience and charity efforts have drawn wide attention. And Harrison’s return brought up his history with the subject. The Steelers and Harrison took the issue head on, and it essentially became a non-story.

With the exception of Steeler Dad on Steel City Blitz, who used the occasion to argue that there is no such thing as “The Steelers Way.” In a nutshell, he recalls the “inconsistent” (to put it charitably) manner in which the Steelers dealt with James Harrison’s incident and that of Cedrick Wilson and concludes:

So what exactly is the “Steeler Way” when it comes to domestic violence? Apparently it’s no different than any other team in the NFL. It’s about winning and for players that help achieve that goal better than others it’s a chance to keep playing while the Cedrick Wilson’s of the world are released.

That’s pretty harsh, but the facts are pretty clear. (Although from a jurisprudence perspective, this was not Wilson’s first offense, the second one appeared pre-meditated, nor did he admit his mistake.)

The editorial position of this site with respect to the existence of a “Steelers Way” is more nuanced than that of Steeler Dad’s, but the Watch Tower salutes him for taking an unpopular position, much the way it saluted Joe Starkey for have the guts to point out the stories of Ben Roethlisberger’s post-Midgeville character change were almost solely based on Ben’s (then) newly found desire to collaborate with the media.

What IF…

The Watch Tower concludes with a shout out for friend and fellow scribe Ivan Cole, who took out time on BTSC to muse about how the experience of the Steelers of the 70’s would have been different had there been social media. His story is a hoot! Click here to read now.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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