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Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Former stars want to rejoin Steelers

By Scott Brown
ESPN.com

PITTSBURGH -- Former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison is still holding out hope of suiting up for the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes apparently wants to re-join Harrison in Pittsburgh.

"Both of them want to come back to the Steelers," veteran cornerback Ike Taylor said Tuesday on TribLive Radio.

Taylor would know when it comes to two of the Steelers' heroes from Super Bowl XLIII. He and Holmes, who was released by the New York Jets in March, work out together at Tom Shaw Performance Camp at Walt Disney World. And Harrison recently trained with the two while vacationing with his family in Orlando, Florida.

The Steelers have not had any discussions with Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, about a possible return to Pittsburgh. Nor have they shown any interest in Holmes after signing two free-agent wide receivers in Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey and taking Clemson product Martavis Bryant in the fourth round of the draft.

Harrison played last season for the Cincinnati Bengals after spending his entire career with Pittsburgh and helping the Steelers win two Super Bowls. The Bengals released the five-time Pro Bowler in March, and Harrison, who turned 36 this month, has been training in Arizona with an eye toward playing somewhere in 2014.

"You haven't seen James like this since 2008," Parise said, referring to the year Harrison won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. "Very, very healthy and extremely fit."

Taylor agreed with Parise's assessment of Harrison.

"When [Harrison] shook my hand, his hand felt like a brick," Taylor said during his weekly radio show. "Right now he looks like the Hulk. He's probably in the best shape of his life."

The Steelers are thin at outside linebacker, and the players they have at the position have combined for 24 career sacks. But they also have a history of not bringing back former star players. And the Steelers released or didn't re-sign a handful of stalwarts from the teams that played in three Super Bowls from 2005 to 2010, including receiver Hines Ward, defensive end Aaron Smith and nose tackle Casey Hampton.

The Steelers released Harrison last year after the sides couldn't agree on a pay cut. The Bengals cut ties with Harrison after he played limited snaps in 2013 even though he still had another year on his contract.

"James has not shut the door on playing football this upcoming season," Parise said.

Holmes, who turned 30 in March, is one of the top receivers still on the open market, though he missed 17 games and managed just 43 receptions in his final two seasons with the Jets because of injuries.

A first-round pick by the Steelers in 2006, Holmes made one of the most iconic catches in Super Bowl history early in his career. His toe-tapping, 6-yard reception propelled the Steelers to a 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 Super Bowl.

Earlier in that game, Harrison turned in one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history when he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half.

Holmes won the Super Bowl MVP award, and he caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards and five touchdowns the following season.

The Steelers traded Holmes to the Jets for a fifth-round draft pick in April 2010 after they learned he would be suspended four games the following season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.