Today, the Bengals officially announced the signing of former Steelers linebacker James Harrison. He will wear number 92 with the Bengals, as he has since 2004 when he donned the black and yellow of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It didn't take long to convince defensive end Jamaal Anderson to switch to No. 90.
Harrison began the conference call by saying he had talked to former players, mentioning fellow linebacker Dhani Jones specifically, and that these talks were a factor in his decision. He believes the switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense is not a problem at all, and that the defenses are fairly similar, according to the Enquirer's Joe Reedy:
On playing in a 4-3 after spending his entire career in a 3-4: It’s not really a concern. Some of the defenses that we do are the same terminology. The coverages are the same its just you might switch from side to side. I’ll be playing sometimes stack like a regular inside linebacker that would play a 3-4."
Harrison had flirted with both the Ravens and Bengals during talks, but Harrison insists it was not a matter of staying in the AFC North. Instead, Harrison was interested in playing for a good defense, playing for a Superbowl contender, and staying close to home.
On if it was important was to stay in the AFC North and how significant was it to play against the Steelers: "There was no significance staying in the AFC North. My thing was I wanted to play with a team that was competitive and that has a chance of winning a Super Bowl. I felt like Baltimore and Cincinnati were those teams. The second thing is I wanted to stay close to home. I currently live in Pittsburgh and that’s where I’m going to reside so I didn’t want to go further away than I had to especially being away from my family."
When asked what he would bring to the Bengals, besides on field abilities, Harrison repeatedly replied with leadership by example. With many young linebackers on the team, Harrison could certainly help them grow and play more physically and the leadership that he held on one of the league's premier franchises should translate well to a recently-successful Bengals squad.
Imagine what Vontaze Burfict could be under the tutelage of an older and wiser James Harrison. Or, imagine what Harrison could bring to Rey Maualuga. Harrison even mentioned specifically, "They have a few young guys in the linebacker room and I feel like I could help them there".
Surprisingly, Harrison believes that this is the closest he's been physically to his 2008 season (when he was Defensive Player of the Year), and that he believes he has three more years left.
Harrison: "I feel like I have 3 years left. (I'll) Play it out and see where things go."— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) April 23, 2013
Lastly, when asked what the Bengals need to do to get over the top, Harrison simply uttered, "Being more consistent". Harrison will report to the Bengals on May 13, just after the rookie minicamp, and just before Organized Team Activities.