Is Steelers Signing James Harrison Real or a Pipe Dream?

The Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time sack leader was with the team doctor on Thursday.
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PITTSBURGH -- Somewhere in the midst of the Pittsburgh Steelers losing Bud Dupree Wednesday afternoon and everyone beginning to accept Alex Highsmith as the future by Friday morning, James Harrison got involved. 

The former Steeler popped up in the news Thursday afternoon when he teased fans with a picture in Dr. James Bradley's office getting his knee examined. This is the same Dr. Bradley, who is the Steelers' orthopedic doctor. 

This all comes the day after Dupree went down with a torn ACL, ending his season and possibly, his time in Pittsburgh. His replacement will be rookie third-round pick Highsmith, but now everyone has a slight thought 42-year-old Harrison could be joining the mix. 

Is it a pipe dream? 

Well, for starters, Mike Tomlin isn't giving a job to Harrison over Highsmith. 

"I'm just as comfortable as I was in Robert Spillane when we called upon him or Kevin Dotson when we called upon him on the other side of the ball," Tomlin said Thursday. "That's life in this business. Those guys work behind the scenes every day working very diligently preparing themselves for these opportunities not only in terms of knowing what to do but just preparing themselves in terms of conditioning for when we ring their bell. We are ringing Alex Highsmith's bell now, so it will be exciting to watch him respond to it."

What about behind him, though? Right now, the Steelers' outside linebacker depth is Ola Adeniyi and Jayrone Elliott, who have combined for 63 defensive snaps this season - all coming from Adeniyi. 

Backup roles don't play as high of a role in the Steelers defense as it does in other places, but Highsmith was making a case to be the most significant depth player in the group. 

For the first time in years, T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree had a reliable backup to come off the bench and provide quality play while they rested. We won't say it's the reason they ranked 1st and 5th before Week 12, but it certainly helps when you can take a breather once in a while. 

Which only becomes more important now that Highsmith steps into a starting role. A rookie going from 20% of the defensive snaps to nearly 100% isn't ideal, and it's not what the Steelers are looking for. 

Trusting Adeniyi makes sense, with Elliott taking on more special teams duties in Highsmith's place. Trusting the man who currently holds your sack record (80.5) also makes sense. 

Harrison continues to shock the world with his insane workout videos. Whether or not he's in football shape almost seems like a silly question to ask. Even after 40-years-old. 

There's no talk outside of Harrison posting an Instagram photo trying to stir up a conversation. The Steelers didn't hint at bringing in anyone else. There's also still some thought that maybe a sour ending in 2017 lingers in their thoughts to bring him back. 

Theoretically, it's an option. Realistically, it's probably a pipe dream.  

Noah Strackbein is a Publisher with AllSteelers. Follow Noah on Twitter @NoahStrack, and AllSteelers @si_steelers.