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Five memorable moments from James Harrison's Steelers career

The Tribune-Review, Greensburg — Joe Rutter The Tribune-Review, Greensburg

April 16--It's difficult to define James Harrison's career with the Steelers in a single snapshot.

The memories over 14 NFL seasons during two stints with the franchise are numerous. Harrison, who retired Monday for the second (and probably final) time, went from undrafted free agent to Steelers career sacks leader. Along the way, he picked up an NFL defensive player of the year award, was a two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time first-team All-Pro and two-time second teamer.

Here are five memorable moments from Harrison's time with the Steelers -- one for each time he was selected to the Pro Bowl.

1. The time he ran 100 yards.

It might have been the slowest 100-yard return in NFL history, but it was one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl -- and Steelers -- history.

Harrison's length-of-the field jaunt in the waning seconds of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII provided a 14-point swing. Instead of the Steelers potentially trailing 14-10, they took a 17-7 lead into the locker room.

Once Harrison grabbed Kurt Warner's pass at the goal line, it took him 16 seconds to reach the other end zone as he weaved and bobbed down the sideline. Six players had a chance to tackle Harrison, who refused to be brought down until he plopped over the goal line.

The points swing was pivotal in the 27-23 victory that secured the Steelers a sixth Lombardi Trophy.

2. The time he singlehandedly destroyed the Ravens.

In his first year as a starter, Harrison made a national audience take notice during a Monday night telecast against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.

Harrison totaled 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception he returned 20 yards in the Steelers' 38-7 win. Harrison demoralized the Ravens in the first half when he recorded all but his final sack as the Steelers built a 35-7 cushion.

The next season, Harrison was NFL defensive player of the year.

3. The time he knocked Colt McCoy woozy.

Harrison's nasty hits were legendary, and it often resulted in conflict with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who didn't hesitate to hit Harrison in his pocket book.

In 2011, Harrison was on his best behavior until he decked McCoy, the Browns quarterback, in a December game. McCoy was dazed, yet the Browns put him back in the game, which led to stiffer enforcement of the NFL's concussion protocol.

The hit drew a one-game suspension for Harrison, making him the first NFL player to be suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit. He forfeited a game check, increasing his total for lost income to $173,529.

4. The time he set the franchise sacks record.

When Harrison retired the first time, in 2014, Jason Gildon's career sacks record for the Steelers seemed safe.

Gildon had 77 sacks when he left the Steelers after the 2003 season. Harrison's return from his brief hiatus in 2014 put Gildon's total in jeopardy.

Harrison piled up 15.5 more sacks over the next three seasons. He got the record in a November 2016 game in Cleveland when he brought down rookie quarterback Cody Kessler in the third quarter of a 24-9 victory.

Harrison would increase his total to 80.5 before his release in December.

5. The time he tackled a Browns fan.

Inebriated and furious because the Browns were getting blown out at home, 41-0, by the Steelers, Nathan Mallet ran onto the field during a Christmas Eve 2005 game.

Mallet's biggest mistake was leaving his back turned as he bounced up and down toward the Steelers sideline. He never saw Harrison apply a bear hug and slam him to the ground. Harrison then held onto Mallet until security arrived.

Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.


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