In a move that was as anticipated as it is being lamented, the Pittsburgh Steelers have cut former NFL Defensive Player of the year James Harrison.
At issue were James Harrison’s salary, his age, and his health. At 34 James Harrison was scheduled to make salaries in the range of 6 to 7 million dollars a year, and was eating up the a large chunk of the Steelers salary cap.
The Steelers attempted to reach a deal with James Harrison, who in fact was willing to take a reduced salary, but as Ed Bouchette reported in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the two sides could not find a middle ground.
James Harrison joined the Steelers in 2002 and is perhaps the best example of Kevin Colbert’s uncanny ability to find rookie free agents who blossom into stars.
It took several years for Harrison to develop, and he spent time on going on and off the Steelers practice squad. At one point the Baltimore Ravens had him, only to release him. But Harrison broke the starting line up in 2007, after that succeeded in breaking the hearts of quarterbacks.
It’s Now or Never Time for Jason Worilds
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert denied that the team was in transition, but that claim is made more dubious. Salary cap considerations aside, the Steelers chances of getting Lombardi Number Seven in 2013 were far, far better with James Harrison on board.
But the Steelers have salary cap issues, and Kevin Colbert indicated that they were reaching the limit of their ability to perpetually restructure player contracts.
With Harrison out, management is embracing youth, much like it did in 1996 when they let Kevin Greene go in favor of Jason Gildon. Whle Jason Gildon was a quality player, Kevin Greene outplayed him in stints in San Francisco and Carolina over the next few years.
- Now they’re doing similar experiment with another Jason.
The Steelers drafted Jason Worilds the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Worilds played little in 2010, looked rather unimpressive in a few starts in 2011, but improved somewhat in 2012.
- For better or for worse, the Steelers will now find out what they really have in Worilds.
But in replacing James Harrison, Jason Worilds very, very big shoes to fill.