Ronnie Harrison was a rare freshman who actually saw the field some as a freshman at Alabama. However, it was in small doses. Still, he began to see starting time in his sophomore year and put up 83 tackles with two interceptions, one going all the way to the end zone. Harrison was named All-SEC second team in his 2017 season with 74 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and three interceptions. How does Ronnie Harrison project to the NFL and does he fit on the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Ronnie Harrison is a big safety who can really move. He can do a variety of things and can play in the box as well as deep. Harrison does a strong job in coverage with his ability to read the quarterback, understand the play and break on the ball. As highlighted in the play below, Harrison is quick to break on the tight end and is able to lower his shoulder into the pass catcher and separate the ball from the man. Harrison is a big-time hitter.
Harrison shows those same instincts in the run. He sees the slot receiver go in to block and he is immediately reacting and getting into the backfield. Harrison has the strength to take down the power back for a loss of yards with ease while maintaining his edge contain.
Harrison also has had some time playing the deep portion of the field. On the play below he is playing well off of the ball. However, he has the ability to read the quarterback, combined with the speed to break on the play and make a pass defense deep down the field from centerfield.
Harrison is a loose cannon in his ability to break on plays and make impacts in the backfield. It does fireback on him at times. In coverage, he is quick to make quick breaks and can be thrown out of line by double moves and pump fakes. He also does not have much comfort in man.
His misses show up in the run game at times as well as he can get sucked in too far at times. He also will need to work on form tackling. When he lays the boom it usually makes an impact, but on every play tackling, he finds himself missing and having ball carriers bounce off of him. Even on the play below, he goes well too low on Sony Michel, and the future NFL running back is able to beat him into the open field with ease.
Pro Comparison Eric Reid
Due to injuries in the secondary, Eric Reid had to move from free to strong, and even to a money backer in the box. That is the type of versatility that can be brough to the table by Ronnie Harrison.
Both are very quick in moving downhill to defend the run, and can bang in the box, but also can step out into center field and roam sideline to sideline. As the 49ers were envisioning a plan with Reid, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward, they brought Reid out as a quasi-linebacker of sorts. In the NFL of today that is moving towards speed, this could be a long-term option for Ronnie Harrison as well.
Fit for Pittsburgh Steelers
There are reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers may be moving on from free safety Mike Mitchell this offseason. Now, mock drafts featuring Ronnie Harrison to the Steelers in the first round are beginning to pop up. The fact of the matter is that while Harrison may be able to replace Mitchell, it is not his best fit, and not what he was asked to do for the majority of his career.
Harrison can play the deep middle or a deep half, but to throw him into that role consistently would see growing pains, and would take away a lot of what Harrison does best. What Harrison does best is a lot of what Sean Davis does best. Davis can use his speed and athleticism to chase running backs down and flow downhill to make plays.
Many will speculate, “move Davis into Mike Mitchell’s spot, because Harrison is probably better at Davis’ job than the still raw Davis is.” While that sounds great on paper, there is still a very real chance that you just made two positions worse and stunted the career of Davis that is just attempting to even take off.
Yes, Davis has experience in the free safety role. A lot of the reason he fell in the draft is that he played free, strong, and cornerback in college and many teams did know where to put him. Heck, due to lack of cornerback depth early in his rookie season, Davis was a slot cornerback. So, missing an entire offseason at strong safety, and finally going through one full year at one specific position you just want to scrap that because Harrison “might” be better in that role. It does not make enough sense.
Davis and Harrison can both play deep, and if the Steelers did draft Harrison it would likely be the team moving into a different style of defense that features combination safeties playing in a variety of roles. However, that is not what this team is currently doing, and it makes the idea of Harrison being the Steelers first-round pick a bit questionable.