In which we take two players from different generations and throw them into an imaginary ring for you to decide the winner. This is the second such installment, and it’s a battle of outside linebackers with James Harrison going up against Greg Lloyd.
Over the past 40 years the Steelers have consistently employed a linebacker that is not only a game-changing football player, but also one that marches to the beat of his own drum: Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, James Harrison. All of them great players, all were a little insane, and all of them were fan favorites because of that combination of skill and mayhem (and not one of them was a first-round pick, for whatever that’s worth).
When Joey Porter was taking part in his first training camp and preseason as a rookie he was originally issued No. 95 and instantly drew comparisons to Lloyd, not only because he wore the same number, but also due to his style of play. Porter eventually changed numbers because he wanted to make his own identity (and he ultimately did. Can you imagine Lloyd giving Bill Cowher a quick peck on the cheek after a touchdown?). For as good as Porter was, and for as similar to Lloyd as he may have been, the player that best compares with Lloyd is Harrison, Pittsburgh’s current hell-raising outside linebacker.
– Both players overcame the odds of being late-round draft picks from football programs that weren’t exactly powerhouses: Lloyd was a sixth-round pick out of Fort Valley State, while Harrison was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Kent State (the same school that produced Lambert). Not only was Harrison not drafted, he was also cut several times by two different teams (Pittsburgh and Baltimore) and received his first real taste of playing time because Porter, in all of his chaotic glory, was ejected before a game in Cleveland for getting into a fist fight with William Green at mid-field. He didn’t waste the opportunity and eventually became a fixture in Pittsburgh’s defense.
– Both players seem to loathe the media. Lloyd never got along with anybody from the fourth estate, and the feeling seemed to have been mutual. Harrison has had his own run-ins with the press (like, for example, Super Bowl media day) throughout his career.
James Harrison On… Kyle Orton: “He was running his mouth and getting in the way of the train. And the train wasn’t coming off the track. He was popping off down there the first time they were about to score. So you run your mouth, expect to get something. Everything’s between the lines, so he got what he had coming.”
James Harrison On… the difference between hurting people and injuring people: “I don’t want to see anyone injured, but I’m not opposed to hurting anyone. There’s a difference. When you’re injured, you can’t play. But when you’re hurt, you can shake it off and come back. I try to hurt people.”
Greg Lloyd On… Joe Namath: “Who is Joe Namath? This is a guy who, if he played in the league today, I’d probably just go hit him late and see what he did, just for the hell of it. Joe Namath can go to hell; he can kiss my ass.”
Even though Harrison’s career had a later start than Lloyd’s, it’s not a stretch to give him the edge as a pass-rusher.
Harrison is coming off a four-year run that saw him record 45 sacks, including a 2008 season where he finished in the top-five of the entire league with 16, something Lloyd never accomplished in his career (he never finished in the top-10 in a single season). By comparison, Lloyd’s best four-year stretch saw him record 26 sacks. Rock solid, but not anywhere near the level of Harrison. That’s not to say that Lloyd wasn’t a feared pass-rusher and a disruptive force, it simply shows just how dominant and, at times, unblockable Harrison has been. Both players also have a knack for creating turnovers, whether it be a forced fumble (a legitimate skill) or coming away with an interception in coverage. For his career, Lloyd forced 35 fumbles and intercepted 11 passes while Harrison is at 25 forced fumbles and five interceptions (and counting).
Pressure, splash plays, insanity … it’s all here with both players, but you can only choose one.