After 11 seasons of professional football, James Harrison has been elected to five Pro Bowls, won a pair of Super Bowl rings, snatched a Defensive MVP honor and most importantly, cemented his legacy as one of the greatest linebackers in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. If the Steelers were to construct a Mt. Rushmore of linebackers, it would be difficult to exclude Harrison.
Although he turns 37 in may, Harrison is already preparing for his 12th professional season. In fact, Harrison's agent Bill Parise feels the aging linebacker still has a lot of football left in him, according to Chris Bradford of the Beaver County Times.
"He had an awful lot of success last year. I think that sharpened his appetite to continue. Certainly, being with the Steelers was something that was very, very positive," said Parise.
In only 11 games last season, Harrison was arguably the team's three best defensive players, collecting 5.5 sacks and providing some much-needed depth at outside linebacker. Two years ago, Harrison signed with the Bengals, had a disappointing season, and then retired. He remained in retirement until Sept. 23 last season, until the Steelers called seeking his services, and he signed with the team.
Harrison and former defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau are extremely close, evidenced by Harrison's late return to Pittsburgh. By choosing to play another season, Harrison is an unrestricted free agent who may sign with any team, and many have speculated the Tennessee Titans, the new home of LeBeau, could be a potential landing spot. The Steelers, however, are one of the thinnest teams in the NFL at the outside linebacker position, so bringing Harrison back could be a good signing.
Although Harrison had a good season, the level of interest he generates in free agency could be minimal given his age. This gives the Steelers the ability to potentially bring Harrison in late, possibly as late as August. General Manager Kevin Colbert has stated he expects the team to be reasonably active in the free agent market and many draft experts have suggested Pittsburgh will select pass rusher with their first round pick. Either way, the elder Harrison could provide some veteran leadership and positional depth at a very reasonable price.