Tuesday, March 18, 2014
James Harrison return not so far-fetched
By Scott Brown
PITTSBURGH -- James Harrison created quite a buzz among Steelers fans with what he said Monday night on NFL Network.
Harrison and Ike Taylor were taking part in the network’s "dynasty week" and Taylor blurted out “Pittsburgh” when Harrison was asked where he wants to play next season.
Harrison’s response: “Everybody knows that.”
James Harrison could provide some veteran depth for the Pittsburgh defense.
It is an interesting thought to say the least.
And here is how it could work: The Steelers wait until after June 1 to re-sign Harrison, who was released last week by the Bengals, when they will receive $8.58 million in cap savings from the release of LaMarr Woodley.
There wouldn’t be any concerns about Harrison keeping himself in shape until then – his work ethic is off the charts – or having to learn a new system.
Unlike last year when the two sides couldn’t reach common ground on the amount of a pay cut prior to Harrison’s release, the Steelers could bring him back on much friendlier financial terms.
Harrison, according to ESPN Stats & Information, made a base salary of $1.4 million last season and received a little more than $380,000 in bonuses. His two-year deal with the Bengals also included a $1.2 million signing bonus.
Harrison played 15 games for the Bengals in 2013 but managed just two sacks and averaged just over 24 snaps per contest. The 10th-year veteran wasn’t a good fit in the Bengals’ 4-3 defense and age may have encroached on his game as well.
Harrison turns 36 in May, and he has to know that he would have to accept a deal that is amenable to the Steelers as well as a limited role to return to Pittsburgh and finish his career here.
If he is willing to do that, the Steelers should at least consider bringing back the player who is fourth on their all-time sacks list (64).
Harrison could join new defensive assistant coach Joey Porter in helping with Jarvis Jones’ development. He could also provide depth at outside linebacker, another position where the Steelers have little of it.
Chris Carter is the only other outside linebacker on the roster after Jones and Jason Worilds, and he hasn’t shown that he can be much more than a special-teams player. The Steelers are likely to draft an outside linebacker at some point but they can’t depend on that player helping right away.
Look how much Jones struggled to learn the Steelers’ defense as a rookie while also adjusting to the speed and competition level in the NFL, and he was the 17th overall pick of the 2013 draft.
The Steelers don’t have a history of bringing back players with whom they have parted ways but they have made exceptions.