Sack-happy Steelers LBs ready to reunite
By Scott Brown
Published: Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011
It won't be a novelty when the Steelers line up two of the planet's top pass rushers at opposite sides of the field.
It may, however, qualify as an uncommon occurrence when outside linebackers LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison are on the field at the same time.
They have done that and both been healthy in just three full games this season — and not since late September.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is optimistic that the two will resume tormenting quarterbacks together Nov. 27, after the Steelers return from their bye and play a night game in Kansas City.
"It's going to be a very new experience," said LeBeau, following the Steelers' 24-17 win at Cincinnati on Sunday. "We haven't had 'em for so long I forget what it feels like, but we're looking forward to it."
Injuries are why Harrison and Woodley's alliance has been an on-again, off-again proposition this season.
Harrison fractured his right orbital bone in the fourth game of the season. He played through the injury in a 17-10 loss at Houston, but eye surgery promptly shelved the four-time Pro Bowler.
Woodley went on a tear during Harrison's absence, registering 7 1/2 sacks in four games and becoming the first player in Steelers history with multiple sacks in four consecutive games.
But the 6-foot-2, 265-pounder went down with a hamstring injury while chasing New England quarterback Tom Brady on Oct. 30, and he has missed the past two games.
Harrison, meanwhile, returned two weeks ago and sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco three times. Last Sunday, the 6-foot, 242-pounder drew a Bengals holding penalty while bearing down on Andy Dalton, but he wasn't able to sack the rookie quarterback.
The Steelers were tied for 10th in the NFL in sacks after Sunday with 23. Woodley and Harrison have combined for 14, but there has not been a game in which both have recorded at least one sack.
That happened seven times in 2010, including the postseason.
The Steelers can only imagine the dimension they will add to their pass rush when Harrison and Woodley are healthy at the same time and complementing each other, as they have done so well in the past.
The two have combined for 98 sacks since 2007, making them one of the most prolific pass-rushing duos in team history.
"You can't double both," Harrison said on why he and Woodley have been such an effective pass-rushing tandem. "It gives us a pick your poison, where you've either got to (double team) right or left."
Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel agreed.
"Both those guys are freaks of nature, they really are," Keisel said. "When they're both out there playing ball, we're a very tough defense."
What may make the Steelers even tougher is that Harrison and Woodley have a friendly competition when it comes to taking down quarterbacks.
Harrison doesn't have to be reminded that, trailing Woodley, 9-5, in sacks, he has some work to do.
"Gotta catch him," Harrison said. "He took off."
Notes: The starting time of the Steelers' Nov. 27 game at Kansas City will stay at 8:20 p.m. There had been speculation that the game would be moved through the NFL's flex scheduling so NBC could have a more compelling prime-time matchup. But the league confirmed Monday the starting time of the Steelers' next game will not be moved. ... Coach Mike Tomlin gave the players the day off Monday. The Steelers will practice Tuesday and tomorrow and then be off the rest of the week. They will return to practice next Monday. The new collective bargaining agreement requires that players get four consecutive days off during their bye week.
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