Harrison readies for Super Bowl encore

Ralph N. Paulk
| Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011

Last time James Harrison suited up for a Super Bowl, he was seen hurdling Arizona Cardinals players en route to capping the longest play in the game's history.

Next Sunday the Steelers linebacker will match wits with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Super Bowl VLV in Arlington, Texas. While Harrison doesn't believe the odds are in the Steelers' favor to make another such play, Rodgers is sure to present opportunities for the defense.

"There's no telling when you'll get those opportunities," Harrison said. "They throw the ball, and that's what they do the best. The run game is something just at the forefront. They run off Aaron Rodgers.

"They go out there with five wides (receivers). If he makes a decision he doesn't want to make, then we have a chance to make the big play. He's playing good ball, so I don't see him doing that."

Harrison sealed his position in Super Bowl lore with his interception of Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his subsequent 100-yard return for a touchdown as time expired in the first half in Super Bowl XLIII.

Harrison, who spent much of the first half trying to outwit Warner in an effort to defuse the Cardinals' explosive passing game, guessed right as Warner tried to squeeze a pass to Anquan Boldin.

With the Cardinals trailing 10-7, Boldin ran a quick-in at the goal line. Harrison jumped the route, brushed off two Cardinals players, hurdled another and managed to reach the end zone before receivers Steve Breaston and Larry Fitzgerald could wrestle him down.

"I felt as if they had no other option but to throw a quick slant, in or out," Harrison said. "I gambled on the in-route, and the gamble worked out."

The play proved to be crucial, as the Cardinals rallied in the second half and led late in the game before Ben Roethlisberger tossed a lofted touchdown pass into the outstretched hands of Santonio Holmes in the final seconds to cement a 27-23 victory and the Steelers' sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Like the Cardinals, Green Bay leans on its passing game to jump-start a sometimes anemic running game. As a result, Rodgers could throw the ball 40 to 50 times.

"Aaron Rodgers is playing lights out," Harrison said. "He's playing the best ball of any quarterback in the playoffs. He's just doing everything for his team to win. He scrambles, and he's hard to get down. The offensive line is protecting him. They're doing everything perfect."

Still, Steelers linebacker James Farrior is confident the team's scheme will create big-play opportunities.

"James happened to be in the right place at the perfect time against Arizona, and the rest is history," Farrior said. "But you have to create your own big plays through preparation.

"We have to be on our keys, and if we let the game come to us, we'll be able to make some plays like James' interception."

The Steelers have made big plays defensively throughout the playoffs, including William Gay scooping up a fumble of New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and scoring to give the Steelers a 24-0 lead in the AFC title game last Sunday.

"All year long we've had guys make big plays," said cornerback Will Allen. "It's going to take another big play in the biggest game of the year. Anybody can make a big play, whether it's on defense or special teams."

Said Farrior: "I definitely think it's preparation that creates the big plays like the one James had two years ago. You can create your own luck as far as playing hard and working hard and picking up on tendencies."

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