What If?

Happy Birthday to one of the best pass rushers in Steelers history. James Harrison turned 35 years of age on Saturday. The new member of the Cincinnati Bengals was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers on March 9th after reportedly not taking a 30% pay cut.

What do we know now? After the Steelers released the 35 year-old Harrison, the Steelers gave the starting job to 3rd year veteran Jason Worilds, and drafted Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25th. Many fans are now in favor of the Steelers linebacker situation, but were furious when they had to see Harrison go.

Now what if Harrison stayed?

If Harrison would of stayed, would the team have drafted an outside linebacker in the first round of the draft? With LaMarr Woodley on the other side, Worilds would still be backing up the two pro bowlers four the fourth consecutive year. Would Jones have been the highest player on their board?

It is worth taking a second to think about.  After the release of Harrison, the Steelers have added quality depth at the position for the future. In Worilds’ short career with the Steelers, he has racked up 10 sacks and 62 total tackles. Worilds has spent three seasons learning the “Steelers way” to play defense and backing up All-Pros Harrison and Woodley.

Lets not forget what the Steelers have in the All-American Jones. A player that held the highest stats for a pass rusher in 2012. The upside of Jones is dangerous to opposing teams. That is more intriguing than a 35 year old pass rusher who has been unable to stay healthy the previous two seasons.

What does Jones control right now?

“I’m just going to go out here, give it everything I’ve got and try to do my best to get coached up and learn this system,” said the first round pick. “That’s what I control right now and that’s what I’m here for, just to get coached up, learn what they want me to do and, most of all, learn the system.”

For Woodley, he also has had troubles staying healthy over the past two seasons. Linebacker coach Keith Butler has said before that Woodley determines whether he wants to be a good player or a great player. Woodley is the 8th all-time sack leader for the Steelers with 52. Just 1.5 behind Greg Lloyd (53.5) and 12 behind Harrison (64).

So have the Steelers done the best thing by parting ways with the birthday boy? As always, time will tell, but Harrison’s time is coming sooner than Worilds and Jones’. As far as hanging it up is concerned. However, we can never forget what the former defensive MVP has done for us. Happy birthday James.

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