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State of the Steelers Roster: Linebackers: Part 1.

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Overview: This is a somewhat difficult group to assess. On the one hand, there's cause for concern. We struggled getting to the QB with our blitzing LBs in the second half of the season, and we also got humiliated in the running game on several occassions late. However, we saw very little of LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons last year. If they arrive in Latrobe ready to contribute in '08, it's potentially a very good unit. I'm going to post this part in two posts because there's just too many LBs on the squad to do it all at once. Players like Marquis Cooper, Andre Frazier and Arnold Harrison shouldn't be dismissed just because they haven't played much yet for the Steelers other than on special teams.

James Harrison:

Age and '07 Statistics: 29 years old 5/4/78, 86 tackles, 8 sacks, 1 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Contract Status: 'Silverback' is signed through 2009 with cap hits of $1.446 in '07, $1.543 in '08, and $1.743 in '09

2007 Analysis: Harrison stormed out of the gates in the first half of 2007. After the first Baltimore game on Monday Night Football where Harrison took over the game with 3 sacks, an INT and a FF, I wrote that he might be the best value at LB in the NFL. Well, Harrison slowed down considerably in the second half of the season. He still figures into our plans prominently and really doesn't have that much wear and tear on his body for a soon to be 30 year old.

2008 Outlook: Harrison will perform for Pittsburgh in '08 and '09 at a bargain price. With Woodley on the opposite side attracting attention, Harrison might face fewer obstacles getting to the QB. Harrison might be a bit better in the next several years as he learns to play as a starter in a complex defense. He has been able to rely on his sheer will and athleticism on special teams and as a reserve, but now that he's been thrusted into a starting role and asked to do much more, Harrison will need to continue to improve on not being out of position out there.

James Farrior

Age and '07 Statistics: 33 years old (1/6/75), 94 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT

Contract Status: This may be the end of the line for Farrior in Pittsburgh, as he's only on the books through '08. The veteran is slated to earn $3.24 million in base salary, and he will constitute a $4.498 million cap hit.

2007 Analysis: At the end of the year, Farrior had racked up nearly 100 tackles and a respectable 6 sacks. With Timmons unable to get on the field much in '07, Farrior was asked to do lots and he performed admirably for the league's #1 ranked defense.

2008 Outlook: If this is the end of the line for Farrior in Pittsburgh, it will have been a great seven years. Perhaps the Steelers will be interested in something short term in '09 and/or '10, but I doubt it, unless the money's right for the organization. Farrior still has plenty of gas in the tank to be be a formidable ILB in Dick LeBeau's 3-4. If Timmons can play beside him and not expose the rest of the defense, I think we can reasonably expect Farrior to rack up another 80+ tackles, stay healthy, and continue to serve as a captain and on-field leader for the defense.

Clark Haggans

Age and '07 Statistics: 31 years old (1/10/77), 57 tackles, 3 sacks, 0 INTs

Contract Status:Haggans is an URFA. He won't be back in Pittsburgh next year. His agent has said as much on the record.

2007 Analysis: Not going to spend much time here because Haggas won't be around next year, but basically he started off the year on fire, prompting one reader I believe to comment at one point: 'who put spoiled milk in Clark Haggans' corn flakes?' He quickly regressed though and finished the year injured and in the doghouse of many Steelers fans.

2008 Outlook: At 31 years of age and with no outstanding qualities, Haggans will get signed somehwere, but probably not for more than a year or two and only modest money. We wish him the best of luck and thank him for his service here.

Arnold Harrison

Age and '07 Statistics: 25 years old (9/20/82), 13 tackles, 1 forced fumble

Contract Status: Harrison is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, meaning basically he's 'owned' by the Steelers and isn't able to take his services to the open market. If the Steelers want him, Harrison will be paid and have a chance to compete. It's unclear if Harrison will make the team in '08 and what his contract status might be. Even the salary cap guru for the Steelers is unsure of his status.

2007 Analysis: Harrison played in 13 games in '07, recording 2 tackles in four separate games. He's got decent size and speed for an OLB, but he's not been asked to do much more than spell the starters for a brief moment or two at this point in his career. Can you guys remind me if Harrison played much on special teams, and if so, did he play well?

2008 Outlook: As I mentioned, it's unclear whether Harrison will be retained by the Steelers, but if he does, he'll need to make an impression as a special teams ace. There's simply no room for him right now to compete for a starting job at the LB position unless there's significant injury(s) this offseason and next year. The one silver lining for Harrison is that his surname counterpart, James, also struggled to get on the field early on in his career, and now is on the fringe of becoming a Pro Bowl player. Silverback however, made a name for himself as a head hunter on ST. Arnold will have to do the same to stick around.

Needs: I'll save this section until I complete the LB review later today. Let's start with this. Specifically, what are your thoughts on Haggans' tenure in Pittsburgh? What will he get on the market? Will J. Harrison make another big step forward or have we just about seen the best of him? Farrior? Is he worth investing in beyond this year?