Is the Clock Ticking on James Harrison’s Time as a Pittsburgh Steeler?

The man at the center of Steelers Nation’s pre-free agency focus isn’t even a free agent…

…But that could change fast.

You may have heard of him. He goes by the name of “James Harrison” although the monikers “Deebo” and “Silverback” often get attached to his signature 92. In case you’re fuzzy, here are a few of his accomplishments:

And the phrase “James Harrison Pittsburgh Steeler” could also soon be history.

Steelers Ask Harrison for Pay Cut, Debo Says “Not So Fast….

The Steelers extended James Harrison’s contract in the 2009 off season with a deal that acknowledged Harrison had played cheaply prior to that point. It was also backloaded.

The Steelers will pay out 6.57 million dollars in 2012, but his salary cap value is closer to 10 million due to prorated bonuses. The Steelers want need to reduce his cap hit. The easy way to do that is with an extension/restructure.

That’s problematic as neither side figures Harrison would play additional years.  And Kevin Colbert indicated in his pre-free agency chat with the press that the Steelers would restructure contracts (and they did for Lawrence Timmons, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown) but that they were reaching the limits of their ability to restructure contracts.

  • But the Steelers are not seeking the easy way out.

As Ed Bouchette has reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers are asking Harrison to take a pay cut. The Steelers have done this with veterans before, most notably Jerome Bettis.

But Bettis was willing to take one for the team. He wanted to win a Championship and Super Bowl XL rewarded him for his faith.

  • But James Harrison’s agent said weeks ago that he didn’t see the need for Harrison to take a pay cut.

The two sides, reports Bouchette, are at an impasse. Harrison’s agent, Bill Praise, is saying all of the right things about Harrison wanting to be a Steeler. The Steelers are mum.

  • But something has got to give.

The Steelers were under the NFL’s salary cap last week, but signing William Gay likely brought them back up to or above the cap. And the Steelers have restricted free agents such as Isaac Redman and Emmanuel Sanders to resign; they undoubtedly like bring back some of their unrestricted free agents such as Larry Foote or perhaps Plaxico Burress.

To do that they need money. They can restructure LaMarr Woodley’s contract, but they don’t want to do that.

  • They can gain 5 million and change by cutting James Harrison outright.

The Steelers don’t want to do that because James Harrison still has something left, and he’s still better than Jason Worilds.

The two sides are still talking, but the clock is ticking….

Thanks for visiting. Click here for the rest of Steel Curtain Rising or here to see our Steelers 2013 Free Agent Focus.
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