Steelers Lounge Generational Grudge Match: Greg Lloyd vs. James Harrison

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.

– Quotes…

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.

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  • Bob Costas

    Has the # of passes/game increased to the point where Harrison may have more opportunities to get sacks, etc? I guess, your comparison of Lloyd and Harrison to their peers suggest that regardless of the differences in their eras, Harrison has been more dominant.

    • Gretz

      I suspect the number of passes has, in fact, increased, which, yes, is why I brought in the peer comparison.

  • Dr Obvious

    I voted for Harrison for a couple of reasons:

    1) LT changed the way left tackles played the game. Harrison changed the way refs call the games. Now, every short pass rusher gets held every down, and if they didn’t, Harrison would have 3 sacks a game.

    2) Harrison is actually better against the run than as a pass rusher. Check them here:

    3)Raven hate. He put up better stats in that Monday night game than some OLBs put up all season. I assume it’s because the Ravens cut him once. If he played against the Steelers, who cut him a few times, he’d probably kill around 3 people a game.

    4)Jim Wexells book, Steeler Nation, painted a great picture of an interesting, tormented man. The most terrifying man on a the team as a back up to Porter, afraid of flying, soft and loving with children, body slams a drunk Cleveland fan. This man shouldn’t be a Steeler, he should be an Argonaut that’s constantly bedeviled by Hera for being the product of her husbands infidelity.

    5)You know who else was bad ass and afraid of flying? B. A. Baracus (I didn’t vote for him for that reason, I just think it’s cool)

  • Randy Steele

    If I remember correctly (always a risky premise), Harrison might never have been on the Steelers’ squad if Clark Haggans hadn’t broken his hand while weight-lifting a couple weeks before the season started.

    Anyway, I vote for Deebo if only because (a) Greg Lloyd’s steadfast play is fading a bit in my memory, and (b) Harrison has changed the archetype of the 3-4 outside linebacker.

    He turned a seeming disadvantage (his relatively short height) into an surprising advantage, being able to scoot and swim under, and then out-maneuver his bigger, taller opponents at left tackle.

    The holding call has essentially been redefined because of James Harrison; in fact, offensive linemen can now routinely get away with any sort of hold short of taking down their man, especially if that man is James Harrison. If not for that, he’d easily rack up more than half-a-dozen sacks a game.

  • Cols714

    I voted for Lloyd. I remember vs the Dolphins on Monday night, he said he was going to knock Marino out of the game. And then he did.

    Mostly I voted for him because I loved the “Avoid Lloyd” sign that hung at Three Rivers Stadium.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that’s a very tough one. I went with Lloyd, but it’s so very close. In my mind I rank them Lambert, Lloyd, Harrison, Ham, Porter, Greene, Farrior. Those first four will all end up in the Hall. Greene could make it but I’d guess not. Woodley and Timmons could as well, but they’ve got a lot of career to prove it. I never saw Merriweather play. Gildon and Kirkland were excellent as well, but not quite elite like those named above.

  • Rambis

    Almost a tie as far as I’m concerned. I went with Harrison, but to be honest I think a lot of that is due to the fact I haven’t seen LLoyd play in 10 – 15 years, and it’s easy to forget what a game-changer he was. I see it’s running something like 87% – 13% for Harrison, which shouldn’t be. Harrison is not clearly better than Lloyd – just clearly more recent. Gregg Lloyd was an absolute beast.

    I think what put it over the top for me was Harrison’s pick six in the Super Bowl – greatest play ever in that game.

  • Wdmchan

    The difference between the two is that Lloyd was smallish and disappeared for large chunks of time. Harrison is a physically dominant player who is rarely negated one on one.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    If I could pick one current or former player in the league to have on my team for a fight, it would be James Harrison. Perhaps that’s not the best way to pick an LB, though.

    Fortunately, Harrison is also an incredible LB. He is, to me, is like Troy. Both redefine what is possible from their position. Both flat-out take over games by themselves, making all the difference between winning and losing. And both regularly make plays that would be on the career highlight reel for Pro Bowl players. For Harrison, his QB sack-fumbles are so commonplace that we shrug when they happen. Some (like Lombardi) say that he’s one of the best of all time at setting the edge on run D. Also, you have to give Harrison extra points for having one of the most important and incredible defensive plays in NFL history in a Super Bowl win. If, say, Heath had caught the Santonio TD, Harrison probably would have been the Super Bowl MVP.

    Finally, Lloyd was an excellent player, but Harrison was the DPOY once and could easily have been again this year.

  • EasyLikeSundayMorning

    As for Jack Ham, I was a kid when he retired, so I can’t say I can regale anyone with stories of how great he was. But many his contemporaries thought he was the best OLB of all time up to that point. He was the DPOY even though he had competition on his own team from Greene, Lambert, Blount, etc. He’s regularly listed among the top 5 linebackers ever, inside or outside. So, I have a hard time putting him at #4 on a Steelers-only LB list.

  • Steelerfan19757679800609

    Harrison is more of a physical speciman than Lloyd was. He’s built lower to the ground, and has superior strength and edge speed, and he always takes perfect angles, which makes it almost impossible for him to be blocked by big slow-footed offensive linemen. That’s really an attribute to how the game has evolved since Lloyd’s time, and before, as many outside linebackers fit this mold of an edge rusher, but not many are as prototypical, or as intellegent, as Harrison.
    The thing to understand about Lloyd in comparison is that he led the defense in every way. Harrison is one of the baddest dudes in the league, but Lloyd was THE baddest from about 1991 until he was injured in 96. He was intimidating, mean, though, and wreckless, and he didn’t care about anything except playing the game of football at the highest level of physicality. He was a very smart player against the run, in the dime, and on the pass rush, and although he was smaller than most at 6’2″ and 225, he was one of the hardest hitters of his era, punishing running backs as well as quarterbacks. He didn’t put up what are generally considered Hall of Fame stats (about 54 sacks, 11 interceptions), but he was a singular player in his versatility. He wasn’t just a pass rusher or run stopper or cover guy, he did everthing, and he led the Steelers in tackles from his outside linebacker spot several times. His most impressive stat is probably his 35 forced fumbles, and people seem to forget that he was All Pro three consecutive times in the mid 90′s, and named to 5 consecutive Pro Bowls, comparable to James. Another big point that people seem to miss out on is that he played his entire career on a reconstructed knee, and really only had seven healthy years in Pittsburgh, missing most of his first and last two seasons with injuries.
    As Rod Woodson said, if the 90′s Steelers had won a Super Bowl, their linebackers (Lloyd, Greene, Kirkland, and Brown) would be mentioned among the elite linebackers of all time, which they already have been in some ways. And, while it is fun to remember that great defense and ponder what could have been with just a little different outcome in the 94 championship game, the 95 Super Bowl, what if Greene and Woodson and Lloyd would have finished their careers in Pittsburgh, Harrison and the new Steelers defense are carrying on our dreams, and despite a dissapointing loss in the big game this year, it is a fun time to be a Steeler fan and an optimistic time for the future of our team once the NFL sorts itself out

  • Kvnfaber

    What a joy to have two players like this to compare form our team!

  • Gretz

    This result in the voting surprises me. I expected more votes for Greg Lloyd.