Pittsburgh Steelers: Could James Harrison Really Be Retiring from the NFL?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IOctober 20, 2010

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 03: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on during the game against the Baltimore Ravens on October 3, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

At first, it was thought of as a joke. It was a player that was slapped with a major fine for a play that he believed to be legal. No one thought James Harrison was serious when word broke that he was considering retirement.

James Harrison said Tuesday, to Tony Bruno of Fox Sports Radio, that he was considering retirement from the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers, because he is not sure if he will be able to play the game if he is not able to play it the way he knows how to.

Things then took a serious turn, when Mike Tomlin excused Harrison from Wednesday's meetings and practices. The excused absence is for, as profootballtalk.com describes, one day.

To take things even one step further, Harrison's agent Bill Parise has come out (also from PFT) and stated

"We wouldn't joke about this," Parise said. "This is a very serious issue. James is very concerned about how to play football. If James is going to be fined $75,000 for making a legal tackle, then how do you go play football? It's quite frustrating to James, to coach [Mike] Tomlin, to me, to everybody."

There are good and bad issues that the Steelers would have to deal with if Harrison does decide to retire. His future salaries, including $19 million over the next three years, in addition to $6 million in signing bonus, could be used to retain LaMarr Woodley, who is much younger and set to become a free agent at the end of the 2010 season.

The glaring hole that will be made by the departure of Harrison would have to be filled. One suggestion would be to move Lawrence Timmons to OLB on running downs and allow Larry Foote to play next to James Farrior. Then move Timmons back to ILB on passing downs.

The Steelers draft class of 2010, which includes Stevenson Sylvester, Jason Worilds and Thaddeus Gibson, would then be able to possibly earn some in-game action, depending on situation.

It is never a good thing to have a Pro Bowl-caliber player retire, especially in the middle of the season. But, this black cloud could have a silver lining, if it means that the Steelers would get to keep Woodley, who is entering his prime.