Let's have a flashback to the mid-2000s, shall we? The Bengals and Steelers had begun a new rivalry thanks to both teams tasting success, the Steelers having some bullies on their roster and the Bengals having some cocky characters on offense. One of the most recognizable bullies in Pittsburgh was outside linebacker/defensive end, Joey Porter. Aside from causing fistfights in Las Vegas with Cincinnati offensive linemen, Porter was a beast on the football field by punishing quarterbacks and verbally lashing out at opposing players during pre-game warmups. In short, if Joey Porter wasn't on your team, you hated him.
Following the 2006 season, Porter was a free agent after eight years, and accruing three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring. There were a handful of teams that pursued Porter and his services and wouldn't you know it? The Bengals heavily courted Porter and were one of the finalists in the running. Ultimately, the Miami Dolphins gave Porter a lucrative contract and he played three more years there, as well as two more in Arizona with the Cardinals. After 13 seasons, Porter has seemingly called it a career after not playing in 2012.
However, many thought that Porter's career would hit a major decline after being out of the Pittsburgh powerhouse and figured his age would catch up to him. Initially, it looked as if that would be the case. In his first season in Miami, Porter had a solid, but unspectacular season with 5.5 sacks, two interceptions and one forced fumble. However, the two following seasons were great ones for the terror to quarterbacks.
In 2008 and 2009, Porter racked up a total of 26.5 sacks and five forced fumbles, capped off by an outstanding 17.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in his second year in Miami. It led to one more Pro Bowl berth before heading off to Arizona. He had another six sacks and two forced fumbles in two seasons in the desert and finished his career with 98 sacks.
Oddly enough, new Bengal linebacker/defensive end James Harrison has had quite a few career similarities to Porter. In fact, it was Porter's departure that paved the way for a big-time role for Harrison in the Steelers defense. After the villainous Porter headed for sunny South Beach, Harrison was busy being named to five Pro Bowls and had a second Super Bowl ring on his hand.
Harrison's 2008-2010 seasons were absolutely absurd. In that time, he racked up 280 total tackles, 36.5 sacks, 18 forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions. The 16 sack season of 2008 led to him winning team MVP honors and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. To put it bluntly, Harrison was one of the most dominant players in the league.
Harrison spent only one more year in Pittsburgh than Porter, but it was a similar departure. The Steelers wanted to keep him, but also made it known that they felt that he was at the tail end of his career and wasn't worth the salary that he demanded. However, unlike Porter, Harrison didn't command as much attention on the open free agent market and didn't get as big of a contract. Regardless, the parallels are obvious.
Now, Harrison is hoping for a second chance to prove that he still has something left in the tank and can contribute to a team's success. The Bengals already have a great foundation in place and a player with Harrison's background and leadership, they could be on the precipice of making a title run. Though the Bengals may not be relying on Harrison to have an enormous role on their already stout defense, they are leaning on him to contribute. He would be wise to follow the footsteps of Porter in his final few NFL seasons after he left the Steel City. Heck, it worked for Harrison earlier in his career in Pittsburgh when he did the same thing, right?