As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, the Steelers released linebacker James Harrison this morning.
Harrison had spent the past 9 seasons with the Steelers, and is one of their best linebackers of all-time. His interception during Super Bowl XLIII will always be a part of Steelers’ lore. And who could ever forget when he body slammed that Cleveland Browns fan.
Harrison instilled fear in opponents, much like great Steelers of the past like Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Greg Lloyd, Joey Porter, and even Jerome Bettis. He worked hard, and hit even harder. Steeler Nation couldn’t have asked for a more ideal player than James Harrison.
But all good things must come to an end, and Harrison’s time with the Steelers is doing just that. But the question is “was it a good decision?”
Harrison will be 35 years old next season, which is ancient for an NFL player. And Harrison’s sack totals have dropped steadily over the past 3 seasons. He had 10.5 sacks in 2010, 9 in 2011, and only 6 in 2012. So it would appear that Harrison’s production has been on the decline. But that’s not necessarily true.
Yes, Harrison did only have 6 sacks in 2012, but that’s because he was slow to recover from knee surgery. He got steadily better as the season progressed. In fact, if you break down the 2012 season, you’ll see that Harrison had only one sack in his first 6 games following the injury. But in the final seven games, he had 5 sacks. That’s a pretty good pace. In fact, it projects to 11.5 sacks over a full 16 game season. Harrison has only exceeded 11.5 sacks one time in his entire career.
I understand that the real reason the Steelers had to cut Harrison was for salary cap reasons, and not productivity reasons. Harrison was scheduled to make $6.57 million in 2013, and $7.57 million in 2014, and the Steelers needed to free up salary cap space. But let’s face it, the Steelers’ linebacker who isn’t earning his big paycheck wears #56, not #92. But of course, LaMarr Woodley is only 28 years old, and that’s far too young to give up on him. So instead, James Harrison is no longer a Steeler.
As much as I hate to say it, I actually agree with the Steelers’ decision. Just as I agreed with their decision to get rid of James Farrior last year. You can’t build a team with 35 year old players. It’s impractical from an age standpoint, and from a salary standpoint. Younger players are usually cheaper, and have many more years left in their career. So it’s time for Jason Worilds to step up and prove why the Steelers drafted him so high.
If the Steelers use the available cap space to sign Keenan Lewis, it will make losing Harrison easier to bear. But even if they don’t do so, I still think Kevin Colbert did the right thing.
What do you readers think? Was cutting James Harrison a smart business move, or a big mistake?