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Sunday column: Don’t pretend losing Harrison doesn’t matter

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

The Sunday column seeks some perspective on what James Harrison’s release really means for the Steelers’ franchise going forward. Very interested in your feedback on this.

Here, too, is Alan Robinson’s news coverage.

And Mark Kaboly’s blog entry on which player might replace him at outside linebacker.

I leave you with this, one of the great plays in the history of Pittsburgh sports …

And this …

And finally, this …


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. Link goes to the Cole column.

  2. Drew71 says:

    I was hoping for Lifetime.

  3. Arriba Wilver says:

    Patience, Lucky. He didn’t write it yet.

  4. Drew71 says:

    I’m emailing it to him now

  5. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    Great memories of #92.
    I’ve lived through #58 leaving the Steelers (which I thought was the end of the free world)….I’ve lived through #95 leaving the Steelers……I’ve lived through #55 leaving the Steelers….And now #92.
    It’s never pleasant, but the Pittsburgh Steelers will roll on.

  6. Eric Bowser says:

    When you spend millions on an outside linebacker over the last two years, injury or not, team has a reasonable expectation to get production for that investment. The Steelers did not get it.

    Was he one of the better players at his position at the height of his career, no doubt. Yet, far too often over the last few years, there was more to James Harrison off the field than there was success on it.

    In a salary cap world, if you offer an aging, injury prone, production dropping veteran a 30% discount on his salary with incentives to make back that money and team still can’t get the deal done, then move on.

    This move has nothing to do with the past highlights of Harrison flaring his nostrils, barreling his way through Cardinals in the Super Bowl, or flipping drunk Cleveland fans on the field.

    It has everything to do with 2013 and beyond.

    It should have everything to do with the next moves sending out others like Casey Hampton, Brett Kiesel, Larry Foote, Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Max Starks, Willie Colon, Ramon Foster, Jerricho Cotchery, Mike Wallace, and Rashard Mendenhall.

    This franchise needs an adjustment on and off the field.

  7. Reading says:

    Should Polamalu take a 30% discount also? Not exactly a lot of production last year.

  8. Eric Bowser says:

    Yeah, he probably should.

  9. zivkov34 says:

    How bout my man Chris Leroux!

  10. Daquido_Bazzini says:

    I’d venture to guess Polamalu gets one more year to prove he can stay on the field.
    He’s going to play the 2013 season at the age of 32 (as opposed to Harrison at 35).
    He’s also playing a position that allows players to play at an older age.
    However….I’m all for more Steeler cuts….Soon.

  11. Good column. DK is right. There are no Harrisons on the horizon.

  12. Eric Bowser says:

    In the new NFL with everyone wearing a skirt, probably will never be another one like him.

  13. JAL says:

    JAL’s Molly Ban Morning Links


    1- MLB Transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    3 Go Buccos- Pirate News (from external sources)

    4 Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Spring Training Tracker

    BLOGS and such

    5—Pirates Prospects

    Pirates Notebook: Pitchers Buying Into The Pickoff; Burnett Has His Best Outing

    How Tony Sanchez Almost Hit A.J. Burnett in the Head With a Throw

    6 Bucs Dugout

    Pirates lose to Twins, 5-4


    Brandon Inge is like a quarter stuck between the couch cushions or something, will probably make the team

    8 Bleacher Report

    One Lucky Break All 2013 MLB Dark Horses Need to Make the Playoffs

    9 Rumbunter

     Pirates Fall Again, Lose 5-4 To Twins

    10 Green Weenie

    Rally Falls Short, Bucs Dropped By Twins 5-4

  14. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES and Other Media

    11 Bradenton Herald

    Recap: Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota

    Spring training | Pittsburgh Pirates take patient approach with recovering Francisco Liriano

    12 Rant Sports

    Pittsburgh Pirates Need Repeat Season Out Of Pedro Alvarez

    13 New York Post

    Clock is ticking on Alderson’s honeymoon

    14 Beaver County Times

    McCutchen working to improve stolen base percentage

    Tabata out to prove his worth the big paycheck

    Walker healthy, back on the field

    15 Twins Territory

    Ryan, Gardenhire wish former Twin Liriano well

    16 City of Champions

    Matt Curry continues to pursue big league call-up

    17 Sarasota Herald Tribune

    Mazeroski gives Pirates a Hall of Fame presence

    Snider hoping trade to Pirates reignites career

    18 PBC SITE

    Burnett pitches into the fifth in solid outing

    Bucs ace Burnett enjoys efficient day


    19 Baseball Prospectus

    What Your Auction Dollar Gets You

    20 Fangraphs

    Phil Irwin Spring-Training Curveball Watch

  15. JAL says:

    Steelers Blogs

    21 Behind the Steel Curtain

    5 teams that could be interested in James Harrison

    James Harrison’s release came several years after it should have, and that’s why it hurts

    22 Steelers Depot

    -Cleveland Or Bust For James Harrison? Where Will The Former Steelers Linebacker Land?


    23 Daily Telegraph

    Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson promises to offer Wayne Rooney a new contract

    24 World Soccer Daily

    Mario Balotelli a role model for Italy’s immigrant community


    25 Pensburgh

    What’s 4 Goals Against to a Team Like Me, Can You Please Remind Me?

  16. JAL says:

    Molly Ban The Chieftains & Alison Krauss 2002 Irish folk song of various titles, including Polly Vaughn. The Chieftains are an Irish band formed in 1962. Allison Krauss is an American bluegrass singer who has won 27 Grammy’s, tied with Quincy Jones as most awarded living recipient

  17. JoeyBats says:

    Goodbye #92……thank you for ALL of your contributions to the GREAT (and not so great) Steelers’ teams.

  18. BillyBaduka says:

    Give me a break. Do you clamor for them to get a bonus when they outperform their contract?

    I don’t blame Harrison one bit for not budging. Is he worth 6 mil? He was our best pass rusher by years end. His inimitadion factor can’t easily be replaced. In fact based on history, it will take close to 10 years to find it. If the league still allows full frontal tackling in 10 years. If Harrison isn’t worth it, Woodley certainly is not.

    James started late. He played many years drastically underpaid while making pro bowls. He was underpaid when he ran that 100 yards in 2009, saving the Super Bowl and giving us one of the greatest SB memories of all time.

    He was told he was being compensated for that with this contract but he never saw the last three years of it which have the biggest payout.

    Does anyone think Harrison’s effort was below his contract in any year? I don’t.

    If there were any justice, Woodley would compensate Harrison. Obvious now that Harrison helped make Woodley what he is/was. Harrison has decline, so does Woodley.

    The defense didn’t even look decent last year until Harrison came around and offenses were adjusting blocking schemes for him.

    Harrison has been the engine of this defense for years and there is no one to replace him on the roster and likely wont be replaced in draft even if we can replace his sack production.

    Again, I know this is the right thing long term but ideas like cut the entire veteran D line up above don’t sit we’ll with me. You can’t be serious. If your advice is followed we are looking at around 4 wins this year.

    You think this offense is carrying this team? Even with the freed up money, this year would be a disaster. Look at any team that has tried to turn it around quickly with FA signings. How did that work out for the Eagles?

    Don’t be glib about this. Show some respect.

    Excuse me for jumpin on your post, the tone of it just rubs me the wrong way this morning. This is a huge loss for the Steelers. Huge loss.

    Good luck James Harrison, your intimidation factor and work ethic, the two qualities for which this defense and franchise are most known, will be missed.

  19. BillyBaduka says:

    Great article his morning Dejan! Perfect in tone, sentiment and analysis.

    Good luck James Harrison. Your focus, hard work and commitment will be missed.

    If you find there is no team offering more than the Steelers did, hope you re-sign with the Steelers.

  20. scapper says:

    Last night’s Pens game could serve as a litmus test to separate those who appreciate greatness from those who don’t.

    A casual fan or Sid hater might watch that game and see one regulation goal and one sweet shootout goal and say, “Yeah, not bad.” But anyone who really knows the game understands that 87 put on a tremendous show last night. I would love to have a clip of all his shifts just to watch them in one seamless thread. His board work…no one should be able to do that shift after shift. He was winning puck battles when he should have hd no chance at all to gain control. And that play near the end when he basically bounced a Leaf off him in the neutral zone mainly by using his butt and thighs? Are you kidding me?

    Reminds me of what it was like to watch all the little things 66 did on nightly basis. The box score doesn’t show the true all-around greatness of guys like them. What a pleasure that was to watch.

  21. Drew71 says:


  22. Drew71 says:

    Why do we need litmus tests to separate fans? Why do we have to point out the inadequacies of casual fans? Can’t we enjoy the games at our own levels, and welcome fans at their own levels?

    I’m a casual fan. Of hockey.

    I’d probably be considered as more than a casual fan of baseball.

    Does that make me a “better” fan of baseball or a less welcome one of hockey?

    Nothing pleases me more at a Pirates game, besides a win, than the experience of watching in a packed house. With baseball, a packed house means the casuals turned out. More enjoyable experience, supports the viability of the team, and selfishly, validates my fan-ness.

    If last night was a great game with an awesome individual performance, can’t we just enjoy that for what it is? And can’t a more knowledgeable fan such as you HELP a casual fan such as me understand it, without trying to separate us?

    I appreciate your knowledge and explanation of the game. But I don’t want to take any litmus tests.

  23. BillyBaduka says:

    Well said. Sid is leading this team right now. He’s focusing on hockey, not getting caught up in non calls I and after the whistle non sense.

    He’s setting the tone the way a leader should. And the team’s play and recent record reflect it.

    He is elevating his play and those around him. Don Cherry pointed this out last week on Coach’s Corner in Montreal game.

    I’ve noticed him winning more puck battles too. He never used to lose them early in career and he’s getting back to that form. Fun to watch.

    This team can go far as currently constructed when they give 100% for 60 minutes and Fluery is focused.

    If they add to D and get another right handed shot or veteran leadership, preferably both, they are poised to relieve the bitter taste of early exits. Who knows how far they could go.

    Keep it up. Lets go Pens!

  24. Drew71 says:

    Ditto those sentiments.

    Unfortunately somebody else will probably overpay. They almost always do.

  25. BillyBaduka says:

    I understand the sentiment of your post and agree with it. We (sports fans) should lay off in the “who’s the biggest fan?” competition. Why do so many have to put others down to feel good about themselves? My grandparents always said that was a sign of weakness. I think they were right.

    But I don’t think that’s the point of scrappers post. The second paragraph does explain why. Appreciate the little things.

    That paragraph does begin with “casual fans” so your point is valid. But I bet scrapper was really directing this towards Sid’s detractors. If you live outside of Pgh, you realize they are many, vocal and motivated. You’d think Sid kicked their dogs or stole their lunch.

    I don’t think the post was intended to put casual fans down at a lower level. But then again, I didn’t take offense to it do it went unnoticed.

    I thought it was “we’ll said” in my response but didn’t take your point into account.

    But maybe that’s because we’re all casual writers and readers on an Internet sports blog on a Sunday morning where the clock is telling me I should be more awake than I feel.

  26. Eric Bowser says:

    – No offense taken by your jumpin on the post. I think the Steelers have an attitude adjustment to change, production to replace, and salary cap to fix.

    – Make some quality free agent signings like Bengals ILB Rey Maualuga, Bills G Andy Levitre, and Rams RB Steven Jackson to support the draft needs at DT, WR, DE, OLB, and QB.

  27. BillyBaduka says:

    Whoops, that was supposed to be a response to Drew. Maybe I should wait until my head catches up with the hour before commenting. :)

  28. Drew71 says:

    Dejan, in the past I’ve occasionally suggested that some columns have been unbalanced or directionally correct but over the top.

    Not this one.

    Harrison will be missed? Check.

    Steelers shouldn’t overpay? Check.

    These are not mutually exclusive propositions. Glad you made them.

    Salary caps, age and injury force balance and nuance into life and sports.

    Appreciated the memories. Appreciated the balanced column.

    “All In” platitudes aside (or ignored), sometimes life and sports require broader understanding than can be found in wanta-have positions and repetitive slogans.

    So Hoka Hey, My Brother. Well done.

  29. Drew71 says:

    Your grandparents are or were VERY smart people

  30. BillyBaduka says:

    Thanks Eric.. This time shift still gets me.

    I agree we need to change all those things.

    I just caution trying to change it all in one year. Often takes longer to recover from that solution than from the cause.

    Eagles are perfect example. I live in Philly area. I don’t want to live through this with Steelers.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas and taking the time to read mine and respond thoughtfully.

    This team needs to rebuild but we gotta do it the right way. The Steelers need to show one of their greatest strengths, patience. If this year is a fire sale, so be it but be patient in rebuilding. I know the window with Ben is closing but even two wrong free agent signings can put us right behind the same 8-ball.

  31. Arriba Wilver says:


  32. JosePagan says:

    Curiously, Alison is also a classically trained violinist who turned to bluegrass rather than pursue what was thought to be a bright future in classical music.

    She did a really cool collaboration with , Robert Plant, a few years ago…


  33. JosePagan says:

    I was also in casual mode while watching the game, wearing jeans and a turtleneck. I reserve my shirt and tie for sporting events that are more formal and for which I am serious about.

    I took a litmus test once but cannot remember if I passed or not.


  34. BillyBaduka says:

    Thank you. It’s were. I’m no spring chicken despite the Billy monicker.

    I’m thankful for the foundation they provided. I’d like to think I would have arrived at these things on my own but am old enough to realize that’s probably not the case.

    Hope you have a good day. You’ve given mine a shot in the arm with kind words about my family. Thanks again.

  35. Dave G says:

    Nice to see the blog clock correct from Day #1 of Standard Time.

  36. I wouldn’t take a litmus test either, if I was you, Drewster.


  37. Drew71 says:

    There were four or five guys who sorta stole the show in that Super Bowl.

    Holmes’ catch, his playmaking through the last drive, were memorable. Fourth in my vote for MVP, but taking nothing away from his brilliance.

    Since no criteria exists for MVP, there are different ways one could measure it.

    Most important, game-changing play? Well. That’s the Fat Man’s INT return, running a 100 Yard Dash in a sizzling 27 seconds.

    Most dominant player on the field that day? Kurt Warner.

    Best player – throughout the game – on the winning team? Ben.

    Personally I’d give it to Warner who played a better team even in an amazing display of a 50 on 2 (with Fitzgerald) game.

    But see any of those three as valid.

  38. Drew71 says:

    We old guys have to stick together.

  39. bdubb says:

    The thing I will miss most about Harrison is when most guys go for the sack #92 always went for the ball. Not sure why more don’t take that approach when it is just out there but he was the best at it. I will also miss Harrison’s intensity but won’t miss his head-hunting.

    I would be fine with the Steelers cutting a bunch of other players and starting over.

    Curious as to why the #10 moment in Pitt’s Big East history is that Villanova sat all its starters for the 2nd half of a game. Yeah I get Nova went on an improbably run to win the Tourney but to me that just says Pitt has no history. How about Pitt winning the Big East regular season title at Syracuse in (I think) ’88. Or Pitt making the Elite 8. Or Jason Maile scoring 42 at home against Villanova.

  40. Drew71 says:

    My litmus is still asleep in the bedroom.

    She turned blue (acidic)

  41. Drew71 says:

    Is that the test the cops administer at the side of the road?

  42. Pat4PGH says:

    Could not have said it better …. Both on DK’s column and Harrison’s contribution to the Steelers.

    Tough times call for tough choices and the Steelers and James made their respective decisions……

  43. Drew71 says:

    What time does the Steeler game start today?

  44. JMB says:

    Well said.

  45. MadTurk says:

    Loved James Harrison the player and he will be missed for the reasons DK mentioned in his column. As for the team defense they finished first without him much of the last few seasons. Does it mean I like he is not resigned? NO!. Does it mean we will stay at #1 without him? NO! All it means in todays world, is teams like the Steelers have to get more in line with the cap. To do that we will have to cut some productive players.
    The offense has to step it up to help out the defense, always has and always will. Any defense left on he field to long suffers. Even in our heydays for GREAT defenses this was true. I will miss watching Harrison in a Steelers uniform. I have to trust the Steelers organization to keep the team competative and in the hunt for another Super Bowl.
    Ben needs to show and play like he is suppose to play as a highly rated QB. The rest will take are of itself. I hope…

  46. Bizrow says:

    + 1

  47. MadTurk says:

    Now bring on the Pens. Hmm I wonder if Harrison can skate?

  48. hockeymonster says:

    Amen scrapper! That boy was on fire!

  49. MadTurk says:

    I don’t ever want to see that ugly dance ever again. so not thanks. lol

  50. Andy says:

    Pittsburgh teams have had a poor track record over the past year of working out contracts with guys named Parise.

  51. scapper says:

    Oh my god, you denizens of this blog need to chill out. Talk about reading into a comment that which just isn’t there. It wasn’t an attack, it wasn’t some declaration of superiority, it wasn’t a statement saying you suck if you didn’t see a world-class game by Sidney Crosby despite the box score listing his name just once.

    I guess I erred in using the term “litmus test.” All apologies to the sad dozen or so who live on this blog and treat it like some sort of private club.

    Sidney Crosby did things no one else can do. Hope you saw it and savored it. If not, I’m sure you enjoyed your night of Penguin hockey and I’m happy for you.

  52. scapper says:

    Exactly, and thank you for getting it! Didn’t see these posts until after I sarcastically posted my last comment. Glad you got my tone! Wasn’t an attack at all. Mercy.

  53. BillyBaduka says:


  54. BillyBaduka says:

    Well said.

  55. Frankie says:

    Well said. Harrison needed to go.

  56. aglebagel says:

    All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be the one to tell Harrison he was released to his face.

  57. BillyBaduka says:

    I agree they are all valid.

    I’d give it to Harrison. But football to me is best exemplified by hard hitting linebackers and defense. I’m way biased.

    I think Ben deserves it the most. Kurt did more with less, I can see that argument. But his interception was the key mistake that lost them the game.

    Ben didn’t have that kind of mistake and no way we win nor does Santonio glimpse fame without Ben keeping plays alive.

    And I don’t think it was a mistake by Warner. He properly made his reads. But so did Harrison. He was supposed to blitz. He wasn’t supposed to be there. Even if he is, most linebackers don’t catch we’ll. And come on, what’s the chances that an LB runs the entire field? In the Super Bowl.

    Harrison wasn’t supposed to run it back. He “should” have given the ball to the speedier DeShea Townsend, there was no one in front of them and Fitz wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to pull down DeShea. Even if Fitz ran the whole field out of bounds. Which he nearly did.

    Ther is no way that play was meant to happen a hundred different ways. It happened because of the football sense of James Harrison. His strength and speed. Most of it happened because of his determination and will.

    These traits will not be easily replaced are not measurable and are rarely displayed with the consistency Harrison brought.

    I’m huge fan of Harrison on the field. My only compliant would be lowering his head when tackling. I was always taught to see what you hit; wrap up, drive through the ball carrier. Hold your head up for your own safety not just the ball carrier. Necks weren’t extensions of the shoulders in those days. As we’ve seen all to well the past 25-30 years, necks the size of thighs don’t do much to protect the brain.

    Spearing, they used to call it a penalty, increased in the 80s and was canonized by the NFL with the Chuck Cecil era. The NFL and its fans (at least fans of defense) are paying the for that mistake in judgement.

    Well, what started out as a simple reply just went way off on a tangent. I bet I get dinged for not being succinct again in my review on Monday.

  58. Drew71 says:

    I thought about calling you two out. But then I figured you’d take care of it yourselves.

  59. Drew71 says:

    I liked the ramble.

  60. JosePagan says:

    No. It is the one the Sisters of Divine Providence administered to see if you were a true believer as they demonstrated their ability to deliver you unto Providence…


  61. BillyBaduka says:


    I’m new to commenting. Thanks for the feedback.

  62. JosePagan says:

    Speaking of the Pens, I would like to post a mini-rant.

    I was watching the game last night on the telly, which means listening to Julius Ceaser (Stiegy) and Mr. Know-It-All (Bob ‘I played a=on the same line as Mario!!’ Errey).

    All local announcers are “homers” in their own way. That is right and proper. I am convinced now though that Errey wants to have Crosby’s babies. During the second period last night (I think) Bob was waxing rhapsodic about how Crosby used his feet for more than just skating. Yes, he can kick the puck too. And walk. And stand. And run. More than that though, Crosby is “using all his faculties” right now. He can see (both moving and stationary objects). He can hear (Noises, primarily, I assume). And although he did not detail further I am presuming Sid can also smell things, feel things and tell up from down as well as being oriented to time, date and place.

    One of these days I am going to buy the thingamabob that synchs the radio to the tv. At least that way I can listen to more moderate homers…

    But good gawd, this guy is awful, and the other fella is almost as bad.

    Thank you for reading.


  63. Thundercrack says:

    “Anyone worried about Joel Hanrahan’s poor spring so far?”

    That note in Nick Carfado’s column in the Boston Globe today. I haven’t seen Hanny pitch this spring but maybe someone should tell them to chill until the season starts.

    I also saw another article from a Boston writer that says Brock Hold is playing really well and could be a bench player. The part that I wondered about was them saying he played well at more than a few positions in the infield.

  64. Arriba Wilver says:

    Good to see an analysis in the way only you can, Jose!

  65. Drew71 says:

    I apologize if I read more than intended. It was the separation thing that maybe i read too much into, not the litmus thing, which I was just having fun with. I happen to agree that this place shouldn’t be treated as a private club. Don’t want separation forced by different opinions or amount of postings or level of knowledge or intensity of fan-ness. Really, anything.

  66. MadTurk says:

    Yep I heard all that as well. A bit over the top if I might add (The annoucers).

  67. Arriba Wilver says:

    The “sad dozen or so” has to stick together. :-P

  68. Drew71 says:

    Yeah. I’m new to this too.

    Hardly ever post.

  69. JosePagan says:

    I live to serve, Arriba!


  70. JosePagan says:

    These two take “homerism” to levels as yet unseen. Its embarassing, actually, that people from out of the area may hear the feed…


  71. Arriba Wilver says:


  72. BillyBaduka says:


  73. densum2 says:


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