Should The Steelers Give James Harrison One More Year?

By Jeremy Hritz

The discussion regarding the future of Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison is escalating. This past week, Harrison’s agent, Bill Parise, made it known to the media that his client was not interested in taking a pay cut in order to stay with the Steelers, igniting much discussion of whether or not retaining Harrison for 2013 was in the best interest of the Steelers. In today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, both Ed Bouchette and Ron Cook both assert that the Steelers should bring Harrison back for another season.

What decision should the Steelers make regarding Harrison for next year? Before drawing a conclusion, take a moment to consider Harrison’s career statistics:


Games Played

Combined Tackles






































Harrison’s most productive years occurred between 2007 and 2010 before injuries caused a decline in performance in 2011 and 2012. However, in 2011, Harrison only played in 11 games and still recorded nine sacks, and it has to be considered the type of season he would have had statistically if he would have started five more games. While Harrison had more tackles in 2012 than he did in 2011, his sacks declined, despite playing in two more games than he did a year before. Yet the knee injury that limited him in training camp and that kept him out of the starting lineup until the Philadelphia game stunted his production early on. He did rebound, as he finished the season with five sacks in the last seven games.

Harrison admitted during the season that he was struggling to return to 100% health, and this is the key area that will ultimately determine his future with the team. Are Harrison’s injuries behind him and can he get healthy enough to compete at a high level for 16 games and the post season? If he can, there is no reason to believe that he cannot put up numbers that rival his production from 2007 to 2010. Unfortunately, his knee and back issues are causes for skepticism. So if the Steelers do decide to keep Harrison on board, it will demonstrate that they have confidence in his ability to stay healthy.

If the Steelers do decide to keep Harrison, it will influence the direction that they go in this year’s NFL Draft, as using an early pick on an outside linebacker will not be necessary, and it will enable the team to address their offensive ineptness at the skill positions. And realistically, there is not an outside linebacker that the Steelers can take in this draft that can come in and start right away.

The other key piece to consider here is Jason Worilds, whom could influence the Harrison decision. Worilds has had three years to develop, and last season, his play improved. If the Steelers feel he is ready to assume a starting role, then Harrison’s fate is sealed. If they do go with Worilds and cut Harrison though, depth at outside linebacker will suffer, and there will not be much experience at the position. If Harrison stays, Worilds can be afforded one more year to develop and grow into the Steelers defense.

Sadly, the greatest factor influencing the decision on Harrison will be money, as the Steelers simply do not have the cap space to bring him back at his current numbers. This issue will have to be resolved in order to keep him in the black and gold in 2013.

While cutting Harrison may make sense from a financial standpoint, from a production standpoint, it does not. A healthy Silverback next year could rejuvenate the Steelers defense and lead a return to the playoffs.

  • westernsteel

    Harrison is one of my favorite football players ever………but it is time to see what Worilds can do in a full season.

  • Superdriller316

    It’s a damn if you do and damn if you don’t. Nothing beats a healthy Harrison. 6.5 million is a lot to swallow if he’s on the sideline. Worilds played good with his limited playing time and next year he’s a FA. As much as I hate to say it, give James the option of a pay cut. If he doesn’t take it, cut him. We need that money for younger players. There are to many needs.

  • Jason White

    I want him to be a Steeler in 2013 but not at the expense of losing a guy like Keenan Lewis. If he wont take a pay cut and it causes them to not have the cash to resign Lewis to a longterm deal then you gotta cut him loose. I am a loyal James Harrison fan but I am a Steeler fan first and foremost. Harrison doesn’t have much left in him, certainly not enough to choose over Keenan who they invested so much money and time in and turned into a guy who would be a probowler if he starts getting some picks. If they can get him back under the right circumstances and price then yes bring him back but if he doesn’t take a pay cut then I gotta ask where does that money come from that they will need to resign other players?

  • Garrett Hunt

    With a pay cut, YES. Without, no.

  • SteelersDepot

    I don’t think that many people will say that they want Harrison gone, however, the economics, as I have laid out SEVERAL times, as it relates to the salary cap, along with the age and health Harrison are the biggest things to keep in mind here. If Harrison remains at his current salary he absolutely HAS to produce because it would cost the team in other areas. As I also pointed it this past week, if Harrison plays all 16 games and records 10 or more sacks, which he has to do if retained at his current number, it would be the first time an outside linebacker has accomplished such a feat dating back to 1993 when Rickey Jackson did it. That’s not great odds considering his track record the last two seasons.

  • SteelerDave

    He has long been a favorite of mine and I agree he can still be productive but given the money situation it is time to move on. We are in a near rebuild mode and we must make hard choices.

  • zyzak

    They have no choice.

  • Anthony Renzelli

    hate to say it but i think they gotta let him go. Use the $ to try to retain Lewis and Foster

  • GH05T

    restructure james contract for him to stay is the only way they can keep him do the same thing for woodley who imho hasn’t played up to the money they spend on him

  • Shannon Stephenson

    The Harrison situation is a delicate one. We do not have the money to keep him but do we have anyone we feel comfortable with who can put pressure on the QB who isnt Harrison. I feel 1 more year but where is the money going to come from.

  • Harrison will play next season as a 36 year old, if people think he is going to be better, they are not thinking, There were many times last year he couldn’t hold the point against the run, his pass rush is about one tenth what it used to be and watching him try to cover a receiver or pick up one in a zone is painful. Time to move on, Colbert said it correctly that you can’t play next season with the same guys that went 8 and 8 and expect better results. Time to get the cap fixed and acquire better players.

  • Bradys_Dad

    Agreed. Remember, even Ol’ Yeller had to be put down at the end. Thank you James. All our best.

  • chris dimarino

    I think the ultimate question is, would any other team give him around the same money. To me, his age and injury concerns are enough to push other teams’ offers below the 5 mill mark. If that’s the case, then it should be a no. brainer for a team with no cap space and other more valuable free agents.

  • RW

    Isn’t this Worilds’ last year under contract? Why would we still not let him play and then try to sign him to a contract with such a small sample size? Unless, of course, the intention is to get him on the cheap.

  • steeltown

    Harrisons cost is too great.. play Worilds now. Its 2013 and we were 8-8 last season, unacceptable. Even if we end up 9-7 next season, atleast we saved some money for the future of the Team and if anything we’ll know what we have in Worilds and A.Robinson by then end of the season. We have to start righting the ship, financially and personnel wise

    Me thinks we’ll be having the same conversation about Troy next offseason (except we may not have a capable backup for Troy)

  • Pete

    I’m getting the feeling from Bouchette and Dulac that the powers that be will be bringing Harrison back with or without a paycut. If there is no paycut they’ll find the cap cuts elsewhere. They are also saying the team has not seen anything from Worilds to make them feel he can carry the ROLB position. I feel the same way from comments made by Butler. If Harrison doesn’t come back I’ll be shocked. Harrison looks to be healthy and the way he conditions himself I think he can play at this level for another 2-3 years.

    There is also the play of Woodley to consider. Another year such as the one Woodley had, and Harrison gone, would leave the Steelers pretty bare on the outside, not a position they really want to be in. The Steelers need Harrison.

  • JohnnyV1

    Yes, if he is cleared medically, they have to bring him back. If Woodley was a world beater on the other side, then maybe you take a chance, cut Harrison and let Carter & Worilds & a high-pick rookie battle it out on the side opposite Woodley. But right now, Woodley cannot be counted upon, so you need Harrison back.

  • alex

    do we cut Harrison and sign Worilds before he has a breakout season like K Lew is what your saying?