With 18 seconds left to go in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLIII, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense lined up on second and goal from their own two-yard line in an attempt to keep the Arizona Cardinals from scoring the go-ahead touchdown before halftime.
Down 10-7 at that moment, forcing Kurt Warner’s offense to settle for three before heading into the locker room would be a massive win. But James Harrison and the beauty of Dick LeBeau’s zone blitzes had other plans.
As Warner snapped the ball, Harrison – who had lined up on the defensive line – surprisingly dropped back into coverage to take away the underneath passing route that Warner was looking for.
You know the rest. The Steelers’ outside linebacker intercepted the ball at the goal line and ran with it for a last-moment pick-six.
Anyone watching had to think the same thing. The play would be immortalized in NFL history and with it, Harrison would likely follow with a bust in Canton someday.
That appears close to happening as the Steelers legend was named one of 28 semifinalists for next year’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday. This is James Harrison’s first year of eligibility after last playing in 2017.
Harrison played for the Steelers from 2002 to 2017, with the exception of 2013 when he had a one-year stint with the AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals. From 2007 to 2010, he averaged 11.2 sacks and 6.3 forced fumbles per season.
His career in Pittsburgh earned him two First-Team All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year award (2008). That same year, he finished fourth in MVP voting with three votes.
What’s next for the Steelers legend?
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, “The next step in the Selection Process comes when the Semifinalists are trimmed to 15 Modern-Era Player Finalists. That list increases to 19 Finalists with the inclusion of the recommended Nominees of the Hall of Fame’s Coach/Contributor Committee, Don Coryell; and Seniors Committee, Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko, and Ken Riley.”
The Hall of Fame’s selection committee will select the Class of 2023 in advance of Super Bowl LVII.
Is Harrison worthy of being a first-ballot inductee?
That’s the tricky question. It’s a loaded group of semifinalists that includes four other linebackers. The biggest name in that group has to be DeMarcus Ware who was a surprise snub from last year’s selection process.
It might not be Harrison’s turn yet but it’s fair to say he’s bound for a place in Canton eventually, especially if you consider his postseason accolades. He played 22 games in the playoffs and racked up 11 sacks, 21 QB hits, 14 tackles for loss, and that Immaculate Interception we all love.
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