Steelers Must Now Seriously Consider Bringing Back LB James Harrison

One position that I was surprised to see the Pittsburgh Steelers not address during the 2014 NFL Draft was outside linebacker. While they did sign Shepherd’s Howard Jones as an undrafted free agent, you now have to wonder if James Harrison is in the plans to be brought back.

Currently, the Steelers have starters Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds at outside linebacker with Chris Carter and Arthur Moats being the likely backups. That’s not going to be enough.

Keep in mind that Carter has yet to even play 250 snaps on defense since entering the league and that Moats has yet to really play much outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense since coming into the league as an undersized pass rushing defensive end.

Who else is there?

Harrison just turned 36 at the beginning of May and while his days of being a starter you can rely on playing 50 snaps a game are likely behind him, he can still likely be counted on for 300 snaps. In addition, his attitude and experience would likely be a welcomed sight in the Steelers locker room.

A drawback associated with bringing Harrison back is knowing that he wouldn’t be able to contribute on special teams. The Steelers, however, should have enough young linebackers on their final 53 man roster to make that a non issue. Outside of that, I really can’t see any other reason outside of his age not to bring him back for one more season.

If indeed Harrison is in the plans to be brought back, it won’t happen until after June 1 as that’s when the release of LaMarr Woodley will be made official which in turn will free up roughly $8 million in salary cap space. Will Harrison take the veteran minimum at this point along with a $65,000 signing bonus in order to finish his career in Pittsburgh? We won’t likely have to wait too long to find out the answer to that question.

  • Steelers12328882

    Steelers are avoiding old age like the plague. Just like Keisel, Foote and Clark it’s time to move on. Moats can play outside and I really think Howard Jones is the best UDFA we brought in. With Chris Carter being his only competition he has a real shot at making the team. I would think Shazier gives you some outside rush possibilities as well. I dunno maybe they give Harrison a Plaxico Burress chance at making the team but I wouldn’t count on it.

  • 20Stoney

    I’d have no problem bringing back Harrison for a look, but wouldn’t have him making the team be set in stone. See how it plays out in camp. I’d hate to lose a young guy with potential for one year of Harrison.

  • AzheDraven

    Nothing wrong with kicking the tires, making camp a tougher competition. I mean, he wins our, we have a Harrison farewell tour, but if someone outplays him, I mean, imagine that UDFA or whoever did that. That would be a great boost of confidence. Just imagine him saying “I beat James Harrison”. Maybe the same can be with Brett Keisel.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I honestly think they need to give Zumwalt a look at the outside. Watching his highlight reel he looks like he would be comfortable there in our defense. I truly believe that.

  • joed32

    I think they will too. That would still leave room for Harrison if they want him. Some vets will be cut.

  • Caesar

    Related to this, I think it is likely that Moats is going to be worked mostly as an OLB now, after the idea seeming that he would be more split between inside and outside.

  • Paddy

    I don’t think they will want Harrison at all.

  • kev4heels

    will be interesting to see what we do between now and the middle or so of camp. we actually have a few bucks to sign a guy that gets cut to fortify OLB/CB. i would actually as far as looking at trades for decent CB’s. we are really thin there. if nothing else, we know what our biggest need is in next year’s draft – CB!

  • steeltown

    If he’s brought in to compete and ultimately takes C.Carters roster spot im all for it. I do not however want him for one more year if it means we have to cut a young guy like Zumwalt, especially if he excels in his rookie camp and preseason. We are undoubtedly going to carry 5ILBs this year (considering Shazier and Zumwalt will seemingly play inside) so one would think we’ll carry 4OLBs Worilds, Jones, Moats and Harrison sounds good to me.

  • Melly

    I know it wont happen, BUT couldn’t they sign Alan Baxter off of Indy’s PS and add him to the 53?!?

  • steeltown

    I think that ship has sailed


    I think this is the year Chris Carter finally blossoms, much like Heyward or Worilds. hehehehehehehahahahahahhehehehehahahah! (It was so hard to write that)

  • shawn

    I dont see it happening … they have turned the corner and i think that would be a sign of going BACKWARDS … i think its a bad message … like everything else in life u need to always be moving forward … as much as i liked him … i hope they dont !

  • pkeats86

    I was just going to say this same thing. I definitely see Zumwalt playing outside rather than inside.

  • DoctorNoah

    And then Carter and Limas Sweed will reunite and win the Olympics as a bobsled team

  • 20Stoney

    Yes. They could do that. I don’t think they want him for whatever reason though.

  • patrick Mayfield

    There’s no practice squad this time of year. That happens from the cut downs after camp to the end of the season. Right now he’s simply under contract so no poaching…

  • John C

    I think they should as well….they need to do something for OLB depth….is there any under 34 yr old FAs still out there? I like Moats but Carter has to go!!! Jarvis Jones better be working on getting stronger!

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Time to lay off the booze Dave.

  • scott2443

    remember james was not a starter coming into league …i have a feeling there is another undrafted like him out there now its time to re do scouting on these players with new data much as i like james to be back the steelers want speed and younger so i doubt he be back but as a backup and he wants to play not be a back up…

  • PA2AK

    I don’t care if Zumwalt is underwhelming during camp. Only way I want to think about Harrison at this point is if he takes Carter’s spot like you say. Don’t destroy the youth for a small amount of ‘assurance’

  • Im sure it was. My best friend said what do you think of Chris Carter, Excellent first step, should be a great help stepping off the UPS truck. lol

  • Virdin Barzey

    As much as I think its a no-brainer to bring back Debo, I really don’t think they will. Shame really since we can use him. If injuries happen during the season, I think they would give him a call but beyond that, Tomlin and Colbert are moving on. What puzzles me is Chris Carter. I sure he’s a nice guy but I don’t know what they see but I sure don’t see much salvageable with this guy. I’m not coach or scout but you have to blind not to see it.

  • steeltown


  • Lamarr56

    Is the linebacker we drafted from UCLA strictly an ILB?

  • John

    As I understand it, Zumalt can play both inside and out. Shazier can also. Timmons has done it too. Finally, with two starters and Moats (who started 12 games for the Bills), there is really no need for anyone else barring dramatic injuries and problems. So I am not sure there is a true need.

  • Alan Felicia

    It was LB Coach Keith Butler who was quoted that Zumwalt will probably land Inside.

  • Alan Felicia

    Let me get this straight, do I think that James Harrison, who a year ago turned down (and felt disrespected) a pay cut and play behind Worilds and Woodley, will accept a lesser salary and play behind Worilds, Jones, and, perhaps, Moats?
    Sorry, I just don’t see it happening.

  • treeher

    It would surprise me greatly. He turned down a fair offer from Steelers, went to Cincinnati for less money and frankly had a so-so year somewhat shortened by injury. Steelers now have a stable of hungry young guys, some with inside-outside capability. I could see them giving him a call if the injury bug bites, but otherwise, no.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I’ll be very surprised if they bring Harrison back in. Everything about this year’s offseason, free agency, and now the draft has been about cutting the dead weight. “Pretty good” simply isn’t good enough, and the Steelers are actively making this team younger, faster, and more aggressive.

    Ike is the only aging player remaining that the Steelers are trying to squeeze just a little more out of…with Troy following just a little further behind.

  • wdhammer

    Time for Harrison to retire .

  • wdhammer

    youth and speed .harrison brings you neither

  • Jollyrob68

    I wouldn’t Bring him back. I’d like to see what they can do with Shazier,Zumwalt & Moats as they can play inside or outside.

  • SteelersDepot

    Shazier & Zumwalt not playing outside

  • Toddy Bravo

    I couldn’t disagree more. At this point, you go with your two projected starters (1st and 2nd rounders), with Moats and Carter as the primary backups. I think you’re discounting the talent level of Moats specifically. Also, as someone else here correctly stated, both Shazier and Zumwalt also played some OLB in college. Their position flexibility is extremely valuable and, I think, another reason Deebo will not be back. We’ll be looking to save a roster spot here, not waste one on a situational player well past his prime who can’t play ST.

  • Toddy Bravo

    Their primary positions will be at ILB. I don’t think that means they won’t see any time outside as emergence options.

  • Bill

    Zumwalt seems to have strength issues and difficulties getting off blocks. he has small hands, small reach and tight hips. He has potential if he is coachable. He has versatility, has some speed and obviously loves the game of football; great passion. He is a good special teamer. His Sun Bowl MVP performance got him drafted. However, he will not be ready to step into a primary role very quickly. I don’t think Harrison should displace any really promising rookie but he is worth a look for packages and depth.

  • Bill

    Your primary backups have no resume’.

  • wilsonmjw

    I don’t think there was any way the Steelers were ever going to be able to address all the glaring needs they had in 1 draft. The 2011 and 2012 classes left a huge hole to fill.

    Howard Jones does sound like an intriguing prospect.

    As far as Harrison goes…him plus Joey Porter in the same huddle would do nothing but good for a largely green and unproven set of linebackers.

  • Toddy Bravo

    James Harrison’s resume prior to becoming a starter and Defensive MVP was that of an older, small school product who couldn’t make a roster after being cut multiple times by multiple teams. Jason Worilds’ resume prior to last year was that of a draft bust. For better or worse, drafting Jarvis Jones spelled the end of Harrison in Pittsburgh IMO. Jarvis has no resume either, but at some point you have to give the young guys the chance to succeed or fail. A 1st rounder and a 2nd rounder need that opportunity.

    The backups have no resume? That’s why they’re backups.

  • Jeff

    I still like the idea of bringing back Harrison if he’d come back at the vet minimum and embrace a backup/leadership role. I think his entire decision to not take a pay cut to stay here was a bit humbling, especially considering he took less money than that to play with the bengals and was cut after 1 year. He knows the defense, and has always been a workout warrior. He could help out some of these young guys…. Just an optimist’s take… I’m a little biased towards Harrison too… I always loved what he brought to the table.

  • Matt Manzo

    What happened to Shaq Barrett?

  • Toddy Bravo

    Yep, their singular goal has seemed to be infusing youth and speed into the defense. I don’t see how adding a mid-30s guy past his prime furthers that goal. We have 1st and 2nd round, talented young guys in the LB room. Let them play.

  • Alan Felicia

    Signed with the Denver Broncos.

  • That’s what Dave Te Thomas said in the EXCELLENT pre-draft blog-chat on Steelers Depot–that Zumwalt played every LB position at UCLA and played them well. In fact, he was also very high on OLB Howard Jones who he said might go in the 4th or 5th. Likewise, Dri Archer was Thomas’s #1 pick as a change of pace scatback. I can’t wait for camp to start!

  • Big White

    I appreciate Harrison’s career here in Pittsburgh, However, I think this team needs some new faces to be accountable. The move would make perfect logistical football sense, however this team needs to form a new identity and Harrison’s personality is too large and would be a distraction. Sorry James, love ya bra.

  • Matt Manzo

    As an udfa?!

  • Bill

    Backups must have some sort of resume to be backups. It’s more than risky to think you have a functional backup when what you really have is bodies who have showed you nothing. Yes the Steelers started Jones a lot last year and he wasn’t very good; but you started the season with Woirlds & Woodley as starters. Now, are you really trying to tell me that the Steelers would not have been better off if Harrison was available when Woodley went down? Yes, you must give the young men playing time but you must do it judicially and you must have somewhat capable men behind them rather than complete unknowns.

  • Richard Edlin

    He’s also unlikely to catch on elsewhere – so if injury strikes and we need him, he’s probably going to be there. (Although prob. not for the minimum in that case.)

  • Richard Edlin

    Why not? If there is value in giving young guys some time on the field (and I think there is), then occasionally that means being creative in how you approach people in similar positions.

    5 plays as a rotational OLB to acclimate Zumwalt to the pace of the NFL is not going to destroy the team.

  • swami

    Agree. If the team brings back anyone it will be to teach the young’uns, and the Beast ain’t it. Besides, way too volatile a locker room with him and Porter in there.

  • Toddy Bravo

    I’m not sure “complete unknowns” is an accurate statement. Moats has been in the league for 4 years and has starting experience. Carter has been a member of this very team for 3 years, so I don’t think either player is an unknown.

    I’m sure they would have preferred Harrison last year when Woodley went down (even though they played different sides), but that was last year, before our #1 draft pick had a year under his belt, before Worilds looked like an all-pro and before we signed Moats. If you’re looking for “functional/somewhat capable” men, that’s what you have in Moats and Carter. The problem is you’re looking for starters to be the 2nd stringers. That’s not going to happen. Look around the league at the caliber of backup LBs and I think you’ll find the Steelers are on par. Both fiscally and logically, you can’t devote three 1st rd. picks and a 2nd on your starting LB corp AND have starters behind them.

    Furthermore, I’m guessing you had the same opinion about Worilds as a backup last year, as did I. If so, we were both wrong. At least consider the possibility that you’re wrong about our depth this year too.

  • srdan

    Messages are sent to your team by doing what is best for them as a team. Say game 3 we get an injury, and harrison already has 3 sacks as a raven signed in august. What message does that send your team?

  • shawn

    that u are going with the young guys for good or bad … they need to move on !

  • srdan

    I’d love to hear what Joey had to say about him. Hwo much did that influence the FO’s evaluation?

  • Toddy Bravo

    I agree. The terms we heard at the post-draft press conference were speed and position flexibility. Shazier and Zumwalt offer both. It would be silly to think they’ll be pigeon holed exclusively at ILB. I mean, Shazier’s position in college was OLB, although his tape demonstrates that he (and Zumwalt) lined up all over the place. IMO, I think we’ll try to save a roster spot at OLB by using Shazier as an emergency option. If he starts at ILB, we have plenty of depth at ILB to move someone else up and move Shazier to outside in a pinch.

  • Alan Felicia


  • Alan Felicia

    Perhaps it was as simple as identifying a better prospect. Looking at the signing of Howard Jones, he has a better frame or build for the position (Jones= 6’3″, 235 vs Barrett= 6’1″, 251lbs). Jones is faster (4.54 vs Barrett’s 4.73), stronger (21 reps= 225 bench vs Barrett=16 reps), and more athletic (40-1/2 inch vertical).

  • Danny Delouize

    chris carter stinks

  • Danny Delouize

    i can’t believe how carter keeps surviving getting the ax…

  • James Miles

    Harrison was overrated!!!! It is time to move on from that over the hill overrated has been!!!!!!!

  • Rubem Dornas

    Harrison with a broken leg is way better than Chris Carter! LOL

  • Hector

    bring Harrison back, let the rookies absorb the most of him, and bye the last cut day, say “thanks but no thanks”

  • John C

    Always go forward….never go back. They do need some OLB depth but I would see what else is out there/what will be out there before camp begins.

  • James Brown

    The young bucks would never listen to an old undrafted fre-agent…..just kiddin’.

  • walter mason

    What young guys? We didnt draft any OLBs.

  • walter mason

    James has said he wants to come back to the Steelers.

  • walter mason

    Jarvis Jones will get a chance to play. What other young guys are you talking about?

  • walter mason

    Overrated? Surely you jest.

  • Toddy Bravo

    Clearly, I was talking about giving Jarvis Jones and Jason Worilds the chance to start, with Moats and Carter as their backups. Moats is the oldest at 26, so I still consider all of them “young” in football terms. By comparison, Harrison is currently 36 years old.

  • walter mason

    You said “give the young guys a chance to succeed or fail”. Well I dont see Jason Worilds as an unproven young guy that needs to be given a chance to start. He has clearly been given a chance. But its cool. I just dont understand everyone here wanting to give a chance to the young guys. What young guys? We really dont have any unproven young guys at OLB besides Jones and Jones will certainly be given a chance to succeed or fail. We just dont have any rookies at OLB so there is no harm in signing Harrison. He will not take a young guys place in line and sorry if you didnt understand my comment.. If he is a better player than Jones for one year, so be it. What if we have injuries? We absolutely need to have a proven backup at such an important position IMO. Take care.