A few Pittsburgh-based media personnel jumped all over the speculation when it began buzzing this week. John Steigerwald connects the dots between the alleged solution, Harrison, indicating there are larger problems than anticipated.
Re-signing James Harrison might make sense. The fact that it does speaks volumes about where the Steelers are right now.— John Steigerwald (@Steigerworld) March 19, 2014
Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly is even more miffed.
Stunned how many #Steelers fans want Harrison back. Blah blah depth; blah blah mentor; blah, blah cheap. What about blah blah old and slow?— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly_Trib) March 19, 2014
It's tough to disagree with that, categorically. Kaboly pointed out in another tweet back-up linebackers have to play special teams, and Harrison's ability to do that at age 36 has to be questioned. If anything, the discussion itself only bolsters the value of Chris Carter, and probably forces the topic to shift over to why signing Stevenson Sylvester would be a better move than Harrison.
However, special teams can be played by lots of different combinations of players. Only a few can hold down the edge against a run game, and there is plenty of evidence to believe the AFC North is going to return to its run first, second and third roots. Baltimore hired zone running guru Gary Kubiak as its offensive coordinator. Cleveland signed Ben Tate, a veteran zone running back. Cincinnati has probably the best combination of running backs in the division.
While Harrison's potential return does not cure the ills that plagued the Steelers on the ground last year, his strength is still apparent, based on watching him in 2013. He doesn't have the speed he once did, but he's still powerful at the point of attack.
The offseason will progress through the draft and probably minicamp before the Steelers would continue these conversations - or at least that would be the early guess. It would be less surprising if he was signed than it would if he was guaranteed a spot on the team this season.