Adam Bisnowaty knows that at some point Friday night, he might look up and see him. No. 92. James Harrison, the 39-year-old outside linebacker for the Steelers who is still surviving in the NFL but who was already a star when Bisnowaty was growing up in Pittsburgh as a huge Steelers fan.
If their paths cross on the field — and that’s assuming Harrison even plays in the game and that he plays long enough to line up against the Giants’ second offensive line with Bisnowaty at right tackle — it would seem likely to be a gulp moment for the rookie.
But Bisnowaty says no. He’s no longer star-struck by NFL players, having faced Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul in practices and hung around with Eli Manning.
“It may have been that way, but now I’m in that element,” Bisnowaty told Newsday after Tuesday’s practice. “I’ll always admire those players that I always watched, but now I’m one of them.”
That’s not to say the entire experience is lost on him. Bisnowaty would be excited about Friday night no matter whom he was facing. It’ll be his first real taste of the NFL, his first preseason game. But the fact that the kid who grew up in Pittsburgh and went to the University of Pittsburgh is getting to start his pro career against Pittsburgh, well, that’s pretty special.
“It would have been even cooler if it was back in Heinz Field, but still it’s pretty neat,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of fun. It’s going to be a good day.”
His mom and other family members will be attending the game at MetLife Stadium. So will a bunch of friends from Fox Chapel Area High School in Pittsburgh, even though their loyalties may be divided.
“It’s great that we’re playing the Steelers and everyone gets to come watch them,” Bisnowaty said, “but it’s a great reason to come watch me as well.”
They should get plenty of opportunity to do that. The Giants likely will want to take a nice long look at Bisnowaty themselves, so he figures to get plenty of snaps in the game. Through almost two weeks of training camp, they like what they’ve seen.
“I think he’s a big, strong guy that knows the offense really well,” starting center Weston Richburg said of Bisnowaty. “I think he’s going to do a good job. He’s tough, hard-nosed and a guy that has a really good attitude.”
Coach Ben McAdoo likes those intangibles, too. As for the tangibles, though . . .
“Bisnowaty is a physical player who works hard in the run game,” he said, “but needs to improve his technique in the pass game.”
Bisnowaty knows that. Adjusting to the right side after playing most of his college career as a left tackle has been difficult, particularly in pass protection. “That’s not an excuse,” he said. “I’ll continue working on that.”
Friday night will be a big test, no matter whom he faces. And there will be plenty of those familiar from both his childhood and his own playing career. Running back James Connor, linebacker Matt Galambos and safety Terrish Webb are all rookies for the Steelers and former Bisnowaty teammates at Pitt.
Bisnowaty may even come away from the game with a Steelers jersey of his own. Players have been known to swap their shirts after games. Might Bisnowaty trade his Giants jersey for one from an opponent?
“We’ll see how expensive it is,” he said, chuckling.
There is one, however, that would be a no-brainer.
“It depends if James will switch with me,” he said of Harrison. “His jersey might be worth a little something.”
To collectors, sure. But to Bisnowaty, too.