Steelers Great James Harrison Credits Mike Tomlin For Hall of Honor Induction

James Harrison Steelers

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks onto the field before the start of a game against the Oakland Raiders on November 8, 2015.

Most people remember former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison for his immortalized pick-6 against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2006 Super Bowl. Those that followed Harrison and the Steelers with a keen eye salvage all of the big tackles and game-saving plays that he made in his 15 years wearing black and gold.

Now, everyone that hears his name will associate it with the Steelers’ Hall of Honor. The 2023 inductee had a lot to look back on when asked about his road to the accomplishment. One small, yet very impactful tactic used by Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in 2007 was an impetus that propelled Harrison to keep his foot on the gas and find new ways to be dominant on the field.

Harrison had this to say when addressed by the media regarding the special impact Tomlin had on him:

“Mike Tomlin actually pushed me, because when he came in [in 2007] he drafted one and two outside linebackers. I thank him for that,” Harrison said. “I think that was part of his plan. You don’t just go one and two with outside linebackers. Timmons was originally an outside linebacker; a lot of people forget that. It wasn’t because they had me slated to start. That for dang sure wasn’t the case.”

Indeed, Tomlin did wind up taking Lawrence Timmons with the No. 15 overall pick and doubled down by selecting LaMarr Woodley in the second round at No. 45.

Mike Tomlin Knew Just What Button To Press to Bring Out the Best in James Harrison

When new kids arrive on the block that share your position, competitive fire is bound to ignite. Without having to vocalize it, Harrison likely saw that as an eyebrow-raising moment. It turned out to be an ego raising moment — in a healthy way.

Harrison had a championship under his belt once Timmons and Woodley arrived in town. He did not have any regular season accolades to put next to his ring in his trophy case. That soon changed.

Harrison had 4 career sacks and had never known what it was like to force a fumble in the regular season up until that point. In 2007, he more than doubled his career output, getting after the quarterback for 8.5 sacks on the year. He also forced 7 fumbles and was recognized with All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.

Harrison would go on to lead the league in forced fumbles in 2008. For it, he took home the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Between 2007 and 2011, Harrison made the Pro-Bowl 5 times, was a 2-time 1st Team All-Pro, 2-time Second Team All-Pro and won a second championship in 2008 with Tomlin.

Harrison Showed Love to Other Instrumental Figures in His Career

It’s safe to say that Tomlin knew how to ruffle Harrison’s feathers in a good way and bring out the best in him. That is a rare trait to find in coaches irregardless of sport. Harrison looks at it as a linchpin that allowed his career to take off.

Harrison also shouted out his former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as well as teammates and fellow inductees that helped him carve out a Hall of Honor-worthy body of work with the franchise.

Among the other Steelers greats that were recognized alongside Harrison include Ray Mansfield and Gerry Mullins.