The five-time Pro Bowler and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year made the official announcement on his Facebook page:
Harrison retires with 66 sacks to his credit as well as two Super Bowl rings. After the Steelers released Harrison last offseason, he caught on with the Bengals for one final run at a third title. It was clear that he was in the twilight of his career, but this announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise nonetheless.
After the Bengals cut him this March, Harrison went unsigned throughout training camp and the preseason. He was seemingly on the verge of striking a deal with the Arizona Cardinals, but that ultimately fell through, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, said as well as his client's visit went with Cardinals, he is not expected to sign there.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 29, 2014
Harrison registered at least 8.5 sacks in every season from 2007 through 2011 for the Steelers, and he was once one of the most dominant defensive forces in football, as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports notes:
James Harrison announces retirement: http://t.co/Bms4HvZ9AA Absolutely fearsome player on Pittsburgh— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) August 30, 2014
Unfortunately for Harrison, Father Time began to catch up with him. He was little more than a situational player for the Bengals last season, and he probably wouldn't have been much more than that for the Cards either.
In a different era of football, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus believes Harrison still would have been an effective player even as he creeps closer to 40:
Shame James Harrison is retiring. In another era he'd have plenty left in tank as a 2-down run-stuffing LB. Today's NFL doesn't value that— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) August 30, 2014
Given his swath of accomplishments, it's tough to blame Harrison for walking away at this juncture. He succeeded far more than anyone could have expected out of an undrafted player from Kent State.
His reason for retiring is admirable, too, as he intends to spend more time with his family. Harrison was a menacing, physical force over the course of his 11 NFL seasons, but he exits the game showing a softer side that he never let out on the field.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter