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Steelers release James Harrison

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Steelers have released James Harrison, as covered by our Alan Robinson.

Who might replace him at outside linebacker? Mark Kaboly blogs.

And this was my column last week on Harrison and the Steelers’ other looming decisions.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. pgherinfl says:

    Holy Smokes!!!!

  2. Zack says:

    Yes, OLB is gonna be the most suspect thing next year. Harrison was 35, hasn’t been the same after his injuries. He wouldn’t take a pay cut, so you have to approve of rolling the dice here. We have other needs, and I’m sure we will draft depth at linebacker

  3. CountSteeler says:

    Pretty much expected. Our cap situation is horrible and it is going to hamper Ben’s prime years. What a shame!

  4. Eric Bowser says:

    It was the right thing to do. Harrison for all his glory, played like a beaten man last year, barely getting any pressure on the quarterback. He played in 13 games, 6 sacks, 49 solo tackles.

    He had 2-sack and 3-sack game, which means in 11 other games, he had ONE sack.

    He was a great OLB for a number of years but injury and father time have caught and it is time to see what Jason Worilds or someone else can do with the job.

  5. Reading says:

    Count me as upset. Don’t like the move.

    DK: Let’s hear it, Reading. Why not?

  6. Eric Bowser says:

    Looked at the wrong stat column… he didn’t have a 2-sack or 3-sack game.. doh!

  7. diane says:

    There is zero fierceness left anywhere on the Steelers D.

    Are you kidding me , from Kent State, James Harrison’s career is amaZing.
    Steeler legends never leave far from Pittsburgh.

  8. Eric Bowser says:

    Why you don’t like it?

  9. Eric Bowser says:

    argh… lack of sleep… should say Why don’t you like it?

  10. I don’t like it either. LB’s are NOT a dime a dozen. How do they replace him with someone with potentially equal value through the draft?

    We know their stance on FA’s.

    Their drafts haven’t been exemplary lately, either.

  11. Lenny Ciccarone says:

    I agree. The body was old and breaking down, and at 6.5 and 7.5 salary. No way can you pay that. Kevin Colbert and Omar tried to get it done. It may not be a popular move within steelers nation, but you have to appreciate and respect the steelers and how they run their business.

  12. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    If Harrison wouldn’t take a massive pay cut….It was time to part ways.
    This defense needs to get younger NOW.
    Let’s keep in mind that Harrison missed about the first month of last season, and was never really himself.
    I don’t see anything but good from this move.
    He had his great days in Pittsburgh, and I salute him.
    It’s time to move on.

  13. Jandy says:

    I’m surprised but probably shouldn’t be. I have to say I agree with the move, however, especially if he wouldn’t take a pay cut. Time to move on or retire.

  14. Bjm says:

    Losing 92 does nothing to lessen my worry about pass rush next year but with his age/injury concerns he was no sure thing for next year anyway. So not upset…just still worried.

  15. Maybe he can work for your company in Duncansville, J-girl.


  16. Coachward14 says:

    Well, this isn’t good. Worilds simply isn’t the intimidator Harrison, porter, Lloyd, or even Gildon was. None of those guys would ever let themselves have a season like woodley just did either. Is it 4-3 time? Even if they draft a guy in the first round he won’t be able to truly contribute in this scheme. We’ve had at least 1 dominating outside pass rusher since the mid 90s and now we don’t have 1. Bottom line, they had to bring him back because no one is ready. Now, this defense lacks what has made it great for so many years, someone the opposition truly feared coming hard from the QBs blind side.

  17. Mike A says:

    Move makes sense based on Harrison’s age, contract, & Steelers Cap situation. That said, why isn’t Woodley held accountable in some way for his declining production and lack of value relative to his cap number? Seriously, it’s more likely he gains another 25 pounds and becomes a 3-4 DE than he loses 25 pounds to recapture his form as dominant pash rushing OLB.

  18. Bob Johnson says:

    While I am upset over the release of James Harrison and loved watching him as a Pittsburgh Steeler, I understand the reasoning behind the release. I will always view him as a Steeler, and it will be tough to see him take the field in anything other than the black and gold, but as he noted in his tweet, all good things must come to an end at some point. His best days, unfortunately, appear to be behind him, and it apparently is time to move forward. Whether an OLB duo of Woodley and Worilds can adequately get the job done, well that is a big question mark heading in to the 2013 season. In all though, 92 will be missed.

  19. NickDeWitt says:

    No reason to be upset about this. Both sides needed to go their separate ways and move on with their lives. Harrison wants a better deal (which he likely still will not get on the open market) and the Steelers can get younger and hopefully more versatile there. This is no worse than releasing Porter or Gildon or Lloyd. They always end up making the right choice as an organization.

  20. Jw says:

    arrogance & stubbornness cost him 3 yrs at start of career. Why not the end as well

  21. Yinzer82 says:

    Can’t seriously say I’m surprised. 92 was going to be a handicap to this team, cap-wise; and really had nothing to offer in 2013. It would be foolish to pay a player for past performance; so I’m glad the Steelers pulled the trigger. I just hope they’re not done yet. Major changes still need to be made.

  22. Reading says:

    What’s to like about the move? Another legend tossed to the curb by the Best Managemenr Team in Sports. Harrison practically single-handedly changed the fortunes of SB 43. I believe he can still play at a high level. The mere fact that is held (“tackled”) on every play shows that he can still create pressure and is somebody that must be game planned against. Don’t know the financial particulars, obviously, but if the Steelers wanted to sign him, I’m sure they could have figured out a way.

  23. Jordan White says:

    I’m also upset.

    – Any time a Steelers legend is no longer wearing black and gold, that’s cause enough to be upset. I’ll never forget the 100 yd super bowl play. By far the most animated I’ve ever been as a fan of any sport.

    – Harrison actually got better as the year went on last year. Don’t have any stats to back that up, just based on watching the games. Does anybody feel differently?

    – We have no viable backup plan. Worilds may end up being a starter in this league, or he may be exactly who he has shown us to be this far into his career. Definitely an unknown. The other options are to get a lousy (affordable) free agent or start a rookie, and ask them to execute one of the key positions of a Dick Lebeau defense.

    – I don’t think that his ex-teammates will be upset. I think they’ll be devastated.

    – Although we have some high draft picks and some talent in the front 7, I don’t know how you replace the grit of a James Harrison. One of the few players in the NFL everybody is nervous to play against.

    – I can’t argue with the salary cap argument on this one. I just don’t see how this makes the Steelers better or more competitive. Can’t we cut a couple of these running backs or like, a Ta’amu instead? Actually, I think I’d rather cut Worilds AND Cris Carter in order to pay for whatever potential savings they were hoping to get from a Harrison pay cut……ok fine I found a way to poke a hole in the salary cap argument too ;)

  24. JMB says:

    I’m not surprised, but 92 will be missed.

  25. Reading says:

    Well said. Much better than me. Too busy watching Pitt and Pirates game to formulate decent arguments today.

  26. Brad, Indiana PA says:

    I don’t like Harrison being released because Tyler Kennedy is still playing.

  27. Harry says:

    I’d have to say that it’s more upsetting than I am upset. Change is hard, right? That being said, it’s a move that needed to be made. I wouldn’t have minded seeing him back for one more season because it seemed like he was starting to play much better towards the end of the season, but all good things must come to an end.

    I think that they may be able to find an OLB in the draft that can come in and improve the pass rush much like Lamar Woodley did in his rookie season and Bruce Irvin did for the Seahawks last season. The Steelers have committed a lot of high draft picks that past few seasons to protect Big Ben (Pouncey, Decastro, Adams, and Gilbert), and now it’s time to get some players who can pressure the opposing QB so we can force more turnovers.

  28. JohninOshkosh says:

    I know the world is all about salary caps but, wow, no Harrison on the Steelers is awfully weird. I still think he is capable of producing and finding a replacement will prove to be difficult.

    I look at the Bears who are trying to do what they can to work with Urlacher to keep him in the fold. Both similar veteran linebackers who have become legendary parts of their respective team’s history.

  29. MadTurk says:

    Time to see if W squared can take over or not.
    Sorry to see him go just like the players from th 70’s. Sometimes it is just time. Cap issues forced this maybe a year or two ealier nowadays.

  30. gregenstein says:

    They already are letting Mendenhall go. All the other RBs combined don’t make half of what Harrison did. Pretty much the same deal with Worilds and other LBs. You would probably have to cut 4 or 5 backup types just to get close, and even then you still have to go out get new backup guys at basically the same price. All that just to keep a guy who is old, in decline, and getting hurt more now.

  31. Thundercrack says:

    tossed to the curb by the Best Managemenr Team in Sports.

    When did he become a Pirate?

  32. Thundercrack says:

    Some players they ask to re-structure their contract. And some they ask to take a pay cut.

    I am sure that Harrison was not thrilled that he wasn’t among the “re-structure”

  33. Pat4PGH says:

    You need more than the 2 remaining years in his contract to restructure it. No way do I extend him to make restructuring viable…….

  34. Jordan White says:

    They don’t need to make up his entire salary, just the difference between his current salary and what they were offering him (or the equivalent of the proposed pay cut). Nobody knows what that number is except Steelers and Harrison camp. So it would be speculation on our part to guess how many guys we’d have to cut to make up that gap.

    You can say he is old, in decline, and getting hurt, but our other options are perennial backups with equal injury issues, or a yet to be drafted rookie (which typically don’t adjust well in the 1st year of a Dick Lebeau system).

    My opinion is that Harrison has 1 more year left, not 3-4 like his agent thinks.

    We’ll see, but this just feels like the wrong move to me. We’re letting 2 starting offensive lineman walk, wallace, keenan lewis, harrison, and adding william gay. Let that sink in for a second.

    What stinks more is that we’re squandering the prime of Ben’s career. Instead of reloading, we’re cutting our best options due to salary cap reasons with little to no talent waiting in the wings. Ugh.

  35. Ghost says:

    (Warning: an Ambien-induced stream of non-reason follow):
    Tend to believe Harrison had another good year in him, but not the three or four Parise is trying to sell whomever will listen. Somebody else might give Harrison 3 or 4 on paper, but it won’t be guaranteed either and it will be a contract that never is played out to completion. I say both sides just declare “DO OVER,” and then go figure out what it takes for Harrison to be back for one more year as a Steeler.
    Barring that, since you can never replace Ol’ #92, DON’T. Switch to the 4-3 already! ;)

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