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Tomlin explains James Harrison's lack of playing time

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The NFL's official game book confirmed an occurrence that puzzled some Steelers fans Sunday: James Harrison logged no snaps in the club's 26-9 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Head coach Mike Tomlin did not treat that as an indictment of the 39-year-old's skill level, instead complimenting 2015 sixth-round pick Anthony Chickillo. Chickillo had two sacks and five tackles over the team's first two games.

"Is [Harrison] dropping [on the depth chart] or are other guys ascending?" Tomlin told reporters Monday. "Bud [Dupree] missed some time in Week 1, [Anthony] Chickillo was able to start. Chickillo produced two sacks. Respect those contributions. T.J. [Watt] got hurt in Week 2; wanted to leave the hot hands in there. Chickillo being that hot hand. We appreciate James. We know what James is capable of. James will ready himself.

"There will be a time in the season where we'll call on his services, and he'll deliver and he'll deliver in a big way. Much like he did in the latter part of 2016. In the meanwhile, man, we're going to continue to roll people and play guys that we see fit and not do a real good job of maybe describing our mindset or outlining our intentions because part of it is gamesmanship and part of it is it will define itself as we move forward."

For reference, Tomlin played Harrison in 50 percent of the team's snaps in Week 2 of the 2016 season, and nearly 80 percent of the team's snaps during their final game of the season -- a playoff loss to the New England Patriots.

Because Tomlin trusts Harrison and has three of the league's best skill position players on offense, he has the luxury of making moves like this. The Steelers seem to draft an outside linebacker in the first round of every draft, so the regular season can act as a time for players like Chickillo, Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt to develop. Then, Tomlin has a largely untapped resource ready to unleash at the end of the season.

Anyone with an Instagram account can tell that Harrison punishes his body on a regular basis in order to stay game ready. So does it matter if he saves himself for the end of the season without many live bullets?

Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter projected as much at the beginning of the season. It seems everything is going according to plan.

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