The Pittsburgh Steelers have released veteran linebacker James Harrison on Saturday.
Harrison, who had two years left on his contract, was scheduled to make $6.57 million in 2013 and $7.575 million in 2014. His release will clear $5.105 million in cap prior to displacement in the top 51 salaries on the team.
Harrison was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2002 out of Kent State. He was released prior to the start of that season and signed to practice squad, where he stayed until he was promoted to the 53 man roster at the end of the season.
In 2003 Harrison made the Steelers final roster out of training camp but was released two days later and signed to practice before being released in October. Late in 2003 Harrison was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and was sent to play in NFL Europe for the Rhein Fire. He was eventually cut by the Ravens and signed once again with the Steelers during training camp in 2004 after linebacker Clark Haggans sustained an injury in an off-season weightlifting accident. This time Harrison stuck for good after he making the final 53 man roster.
Harrison had to wait until 2007 to become the full-time starter at right outside linebacker when he replaced Joey Porter, who was released during the off-season. He recorded 8.5 sacks that season, intercepted 1 pass and forced 7 fumbles. That performance resulted in his first of five selections to the Pro Bowl.
In 2008 Harrison was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year after registering 16 regular season sacks, 1 interception and 7 more forced fumbles. In Super Bowl XLIII, Harrison intercepted a pass from Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner at the Steelers goal-line and ran it back for a 100-yard touchdown at the end of the first half. It was a defining moment in the game and a highlight that will forever be etched in the minds of Steelers fans.
In April of 2009 Harrison signed a 6-year, $51.75 million contract extension with the Steelers. He recorded 10 sacks during that season to go along with 5 more forced fumbles and 79 total tackles. It resulted in his third straight Pro Bowl selection.
In 2010 Harrison was flagged and fined several times during the regular season for hits that were deemed illegal in the games against the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills. He still managed to register 100 total tackles, 10.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles. The season, however, culminated with the Steelers losing to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
In 2011 Harrison missed four regular season games due to a fractured orbital bone that he suffered in the Week 4 game against the Houston Texans. He also was suspended for the Week 15 game against the San Francisco 49ers for his illegal hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy the week prior. Despite the time missed, Harrison still finished the season with 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 59 total tackles.
In 2012 Harrison started off training camp on the PUP list because of problems with one his knees that resulted in him needing a minor surgical procedure done. He missed the first 3 regular season games as a result of the procedure and recorded just 1 sack in his first 6 games once he returned to the lineup. In his final 7 games, however, Harrison registered 5 more sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He ended the season with 70 total tackles, 6 sacks, and the 2 forced fumbles.
During his career with the Steelers Harrison recorded 64 sacks, 617 combined tackles, 5 interceptions, and 29 forced fumbles during the regular season in 131 games, of which he started 95 of them. In 8 post-season games he recorded 6 sacks and 1 interception.
Harrison will always be remembered as one of the great linebackers that played in Pittsburgh.