James Harrison to Steelers: Latest Contract Details, Analysis and Reaction

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2014

USA Today

Updates from Thursday, Sept. 25

Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an update on Harrison's playing status:

Original Text

Linebacker James Harrison has found a home again, as the former Defensive Player of the Year inked a deal Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Steelers. On his Instagram account, Harrison posted a picture of himself signing a contract with the caption, "Done deal!":

The Steelers also confirmed the move on their Twitter account:

Head coach Mike Tomlin discussed how the franchise will use Harrison (via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette):

Bob Labiola of Steelers.com has more:

Scott Brown of ESPN reports Tomlin and Harrison discussed Harrison's 2008 arrest for domestic violence prior to his return to the Steelers:

With domestic abuse a hot-button issue in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked to James Harrison about his 2008 arrest for hitting his girlfriend before Pittsburgh brought back the veteran outside linebacker.

"I've discussed directly that climate change [in the NFL] with James," Tomlin said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "But knowing James, he's grown a lot, and I don't anticipate that being an issue at all moving forward."

Although Harrison is 36 years old and on the downside of his career, he could still be a valuable asset. In addition to being an 11-year NFL veteran, Harrison is also a two-time Super Bowl champion.

Potential interest in Harrison across the league didn't become apparent until recently. On Aug. 27, Kent Somers of azcentral.com reported that the Arizona Cardinals intended to bring Harrison in for a visit and physical:

There was also some talk about Harrison potentially rejoining the Pittsburgh Steelers. Harrison spent 10 years with Pittsburgh before playing for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013. According to ESPN.com's Scott Brown, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert considered Harrison a potential option:

We haven't eliminated anybody from consideration because we don't know what's going to happen before the season. Even into the season there's been times when we've brought back veteran players due to injury. If we have eliminated a player we always tell (him) don't keep us in your thought process, if you have an opportunity don't wait for us, something along those lines.

Harrison made the Pro Bowl on five occasions with the Steelers and racked up 64 sacks in 131 games. After registering 54 sacks from 2007 through 2011, his production began to drop off a couple years ago. He had just six sacks in 2012 before ending the 2013 campaign with two, his lowest total since 2006.

Even with Harrison's skills declining, Joe Starkey of 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh was in favor of the Steelers exploring the possibility of bringing him back:

The fit would have made sense due to the fact that Harrison is quite familiar with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's system. With that said, the Steelers essentially turned the page on Harrison when they let him go to division rival Cincinnati last season.

December 23, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) reacts during a time-out against the Cincinnati Bengals during the first quarter at Heinz Field. The Cincinnati Bengals won 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Charles
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Harrison is no longer an every-down player, but he can be an effective contributor in pass-rushing situations. Having depth at linebacker in the NFL is never a bad thing, so it is probably more surprising that it took Harrison this long to find a job than it is that he found one at all.

Since there wasn't a great deal of interest in Harrison initially, though, it stands to reason that the 2014 campaign could be his last hurrah unless he is able to produce a hugely productive season out of nowhere.

More than anything, this season is about making one more run and trying to win a third Super Bowl ring. Even if it doesn't happen, Harrison has done enough over the course of his career to earn a final contract so that he can go out on his terms.

Harrison hasn't necessarily always been viewed as the model teammate and leader throughout his NFL tenure, but he has seen and done it all at this point. His experience alone makes him a player worth having on the roster.

Although Harrison isn't used to being a role player, that is likely what will be asked of him. Provided he is able to settle in and accept his position as a veteran depth player, Harrison could very well turn out to be a savvy, bargain signing.

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