Former Steelers Linebacker James Harrison Announces His Retirement

Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison just announced via social media today that he is retiring from the NFL. The 36-year-old was originally signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent, and most recently played for the Cincinnatti Bengals. He said in a statement on Facebook and Twitter:

I have made the difficult decision to retire as of today. My love for my family and the need to be there for them outweighs my desire to play the game. I have missed too many experiences with them because I devoted SO much time to my career. My love for the game isn’t strong enough to make up for missing one more birthday or first day of school. I am retiring as a man who is truly grateful for all of his blessings. I am sincerely thankful to the people who have supported me over the years, first and foremost my family, the Rooney family and my Steeler family, also Mr. Brown, the Bengals organization and fans, and last but FAR from least, Steeler Nation. Thank you.

Harrison was released by the Bengals earlier this offseason and has spent the year quietly training and biding his time. He just recently visited with the Arizona Cardinals and former Steelers coach Bruce Arians, but he left yesterday without a contract.

Not long after departing the Cardinals facilities and returning home, Harrison Tweeted last night: “Money can buy me a lot of things but it can’t get back these times!”

Harrison joined the Steelers in 2002 via Kent State, and was cut several times along the way, even spending time in the old NFL Europe, playing with the Rhein Fire. He spent time during the offseason of the 2004 season with the Baltimore Ravens before wending his way back to Pittsburgh that same year, where he made his home and played until last year.

As so many players in his position do, Harrison cut his teeth on special teams while flashing potential here and there in his limited opportunities on the field. He got his first NFL start in 2004 when Joey Porter was ejected for fighting before the Steelers’ game with the Cleveland Browns, during which he recorded six tackles and his first sack.

Three years later, Harrison would be the one to replace Porter under new head coach Mike Tomlin, and would go on to earn five straight Pro Bowl nominations and four All-Pro appointments.

During that span, he became one of the greatest and most feared players in the NFL, eventually becoming the poster boy for the league’s new contact rules for defenseless players and racking up fines in the process.

During the 2008 season, Harrison had a truly remarkable year, recording over 100 tackles and a career-high and team record 16 sacks, forcing seven fumbles and recording an interception and a safety in the process.

On the eve of being named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, he made one of the great plays in Super Bowl history when he intercepted a Kurt Warner pass at the goal line and returned it all the way for a touchdown as the first half ended.

Harrison’s last few years with the Steelers became hampered with nagging injuries and proved to be the only thing that could stop him. In 2012, his pride got in the way when he refused to accept a pay cut from Pittsburgh’s front office, forcing them to release him. He spent last year playing for the Bengals.

For his career, he accumulated 647 tackles, 66 sacks, six interceptions, 29 fumbles, and the love of a fan base that cherishes its tradition of hardnosed linebackers. Harrison will always be embraced by Pittsburgh, even if he couldn’t finish his career with Dick LeBeau and the Steelers.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Game_Time

    #92, Debo aka Silverback, Mr. Harrison will always be a part of Steelers Nation …. Now come sign that one day contract and retire as a Steeler!!! . #Salute

  • JohnB

    dangit, I was hoping we’d bring him back to play quarterback…er..I mean…

  • joed32

    The right choice for one of my all time favorites, the second coming of Greg Lloyd.

  • WilliamSekinger

    After reading his twitter feed throughout the summer, I was afraid this would happen. He’s having a blast with his kids and good for him! Goodbye Silverback, you will be missed! Thank you for all you gave to Steelers nation. I hope the FO can see to it to sign you for 1 day so you can retire a Steeler.

  • 804Stiller

    Man, I wish we can find another one like him. Nevertheless, he was a great Stiller!!! Good luck brother!

  • NW86

    Thanks for all the great memories Deebo!

  • A truly GREAT Steelers linebacker, and that’s saying a lot!

  • John Hinton

    One of the best to ever do it in the Black and Gold!

  • StrengthOfVictory

    There is little else to say to this man except thank you…for everything. There will never be another 92.

  • Still_JPDQ

    The plot thickens. I have a feeling Harrison will end up with the last laugh when the Steelers come asking him to play after Worilds or Jones goes down this season.

    Also, not to be nitpicky, but I take issue with this statement: “In 2012, his pride got in the way when he refused to accept a pay cut from Pittsburgh’s front office, forcing them to release him.”

    Please – just stick to the facts. Just because a guy doesn’t accept a pay cut on his job doesn’t necessarily mean “pride gets in the way.” And it didn’t “force” the Steelers to release him, they made the decision to do so. By saying this, you make it sound like James was 100% responsible for not playing in Pittsburgh last year. There is at least equal accountability on both sides.

    Thank you, Silverback, for being one of the toughest of the tough to EVER play this position. Your intensity, passion, work ethic, dedication and honesty are truly appreciated and will sorely be missed. Best of luck and health to you in the rest of your endeavors. See you in Canton.

  • george

    It would be great to have his retirement ceremony when we host the Ravens.

  • Brendon Glad

    I loved watching him play. And especially against Baltimore. He owned them. Thanks for the memories. I already missed 92…but I guess it’s official now. The Steelers rarely got called “listless” when he was suited up.

  • Brian Miller

    Well said, i agree.

  • dgh57

    Every time I think of James Harrison the vision of him returning that INT for a TD in the SB victory over the Cardinals comes to my mind. Thanks for the memories JH and GOOD LUCK in all your future endeavors!!

  • William Bigelow


  • Brandon Andrews


  • Steve

    James could have made more money last year with the Steelers, but he chose to shop his wears to the highest bidder. Tried to get a higher contract and came back to the Steelers, who had pulled the contract off the table, were he had to go to the Bengals, with no other offer.
    James is a true family man and will have more time to be with them and get on with his life’s work.

  • Douglas Andrews

    That SB XLIII interception and TD return is probably the greatest play I’ve ever seen. Thanks for all you have done for the Black and Gold! Good luck enjoy your retirement

  • 2443scott

    its always hard to say goodbye to a player that ment so much to a team and to see them get released ….every player knows that time comes but they feel they have it still …..i wish he would took that pay cut but you cant blame the guy for knowing his time was comeing to a end and wanted that last pay day …just to many older players on the roster to keep them …..he brought to the team a demeaner that was build from the 70s back for a time he played as a steeler ….he be missed on the field but never missed by any steeler fan who will always relish in his desire to make the steelers the best he could….for a undrafted player he became a steeler who lived the black and gold lber legacy….good luck in private life and enjoy your family james and remember there is a family of steeler nation out there who will always remember you.

  • Matt Manzo

    One of the best ever!!!!
    Has any other player taken his route to greatness?! Several cuts, Nfl Europe to complete dominance and a SB defining moment?!!!

  • Jason White

    When the Steelers sign him to his one day deal to retire they should do it on opening day. And for the halftime show they should bring back that pesky Browns fan for Deebo to bodyslam again for old times and when he finishes driving that guy into Heinz Field he can look over at Manziel and give him the one finger salute.

  • Bvrsty

    We might need him to be the emergency long snapper… 🙂

  • whisn

    One of the great Steelers of all-time! 2008 era he was beyond awesome! Thanks James, enjoy your retirement.

  • TsarPepe

    That Monday Night Game in 2007 against the Ravens will remain the greatest show a LB has ever put before my eyes. They did everything to try to stop 92, and he just kept throwing them around like rag dolls. What an absolute stud! There have been greater LBs in Steelers history, but no one who deserves the tag “stud” more than James.

  • CrazyTerry

    I agree. Troy Polamalu would not have taken a paycut if the Steelers asked him to and James Harrison has been just as important as Troy to the greatness part of the D.

  • CrazyTerry

    One of the greatest Steelers LBs ever. Definitely one of the very best since the 70s. It’s too bad we couldn’t see him one more year this year.

  • Luis Garcia

    Best to him. Thanks for the victories!

  • Bill

    James is the owner of the greatest play in Super Bowl history. He was a great Steeler and belongs in the pantheon of great linebackers that team has had the good fortune to call their own. Good luck and Godspeed Old Silverback.

  • Doogie

    HaHa his he wants to be with his family, especially after no on will sign him. A positive spin on being unemployed. I always liked his play, but age catches everyone. I hope he is happy and enjoys his retirement. Best wishes Silver Back. I appreciate everything you did for the team over the years.

  • And here I thought for sure he signed with the Bengals for a year so he could be a spy and learn some of their secrets (if they had any). lol I wish him good luck, but I also wish he would have waited. Who knows what may have happened. The Steelers just might have called him if needed . Oh well. We move on. GO STEELERS!

  • BFB

    Delusions of replacement for Worilds/Jones. Even James has faced reality. And yes, if he turned down the Steelers offer and ended up taking less in Cincy, pride got in the way. If not pride, stupid got in the way and James is not stupid.
    Great career James. Thanks for hanging in there and the work you put in to break the roster. Thank you for the years of exciting play and the things you did for this team. Thank you for the attitude you brought. We miss that right now. You had a mean streak we could use. Enjoy your retirement.

  • sean mcmartin

    Thank you James. You were one of the Great OLB’s for the black and gold.
    One of my favorite players. Your intensity and ferocious play has not yet been replaced..Good Luck with your life’s work.

  • sean mcmartin

    No doubt the team never showed up listless with him.that would not have been tolerated by the vets..Deebo has left the building.

  • sean mcmartin

    hahaha that was great..Can’t see any of the LB’s on the current roster that would do that today..sigh

  • Smashmouth

    would be great to retire joe greene’s number during the first game with the ravens then have a goodbye ceremony for deebo during the other ravens game just have him suit up and let roger goodell try to hug him goodbye lol

  • Still_JPDQ

    Not too delusional now that the Steelers released all of their backup OLBs besides Moats, am I? Look at all the great castaways we get to choose from! Let the signing frenzy begin!

  • BFB

    I made the comment after they cut down to 3 OLB’s and 1 tweener. That was not breaking news.
    My point is that James Harrison was let go by the Steelers after pay cut discussions, cut by the Bengals after 1 very ordinary if not sub standard season, and came back from Arizona after a tryout only to announce retirement. Does that sound like AZ was interested?
    So yes, very delusional now if you think James Harrison is the direction the team will go to add talent to the OLB position. I am just looking at the situation realistically.
    I wish James all the best and thank him for all of the great times in Steeler Nation. I saw the SB return live in Tampa and will never forget it. Best wishes James.

  • Still_JPDQ

    One “very ordinary if not sub standard season” that included posting better numbers than his first round replacement on the Steelers, in considerably fewer snaps in a system that did not play to his strengths in the first place.

    Yes, obviously AZ was interested, or they wouldn’t have asked him to come out. I’m so sick of people using the old, tired excuse, “If he was so good, how come nobody else signed him?” as if it’s that simple.

    Lots of guys are released by teams for purely financial reasons. And lots of guys don’t sign with teams because of purely financial reasons. I’m absolutely sure that the Steelers view James Harrison as a better OLB for their system than Chris Carter and all the other guys they just released. But to his credit, James won’t (and shouldn’t) play for one red cent less than what he thinks he’s worth.

    Joey Porter was released by the Steelers and posted 17.5 sacks two years later. Does that mean the Steelers thought he was no longer a quality player?

    Gimme a break.

  • BFB

    Actually they never approached Troy about a cut in pay but when the press asked the question about his willingness, he did not rule it out if it helped the team to a championship.

  • BFB

    Lets go point by point.
    James played outside LB in a 4/3 in Cincy and if he had such great numbers why did Cincy let him go after one season? It sure was not financial reasons. (Sorry, jumped to that point but can’t avoid it.) Also, Harrison was cut and on the practice squad during his first few years so to compare him with a rookie out of college who did get forced into the starting lineup prematurely is not a valid comparison.
    Next, I’ll agree AZ was interested until after they met. He retired right after that visit! Any connection you think? (PS – AZ did not pass on him due to financial considerations, it never got that far.)
    Now, for the financial thing. No team cut Harrison because he cost too much except Pittsburgh when he would not take a cut in pay. And to the point, if there are LBs out there on the market with higher value and higher salary demands, then they are better candidates to come in than James as they are younger and offer more as players.
    Lastly, Porter’s situation was totally different. He was at the peak or slightly after his peak when he left, not at the end like James. The organization chose to let him go as they knew they could not compete with other suitors as it would have been detrimental to the rest of the roster and younger players they wanted to keep. Porter left on good terms with both sides admitting it was a financial decision for both sides that benefitted both sides. No negotiation for a pay cut to a player with one or two more good years of tread on the tires. Again, your comparison is invalid.
    No breaks from me.

  • Still_JPDQ

    You can try to rationalize your position all you want – that’s clearly what you are doing by making broad assumptions like, “it wasn’t for financial reasons.” You base this on what? Your insider knowledge? Where you there when James was negotiating with the Steelers or when he was in Arizona? The Steelers were prepared to go into 2013 with JH as their starting OLB, because he was the best guy on the team at that position. The money got in the way. Both of those points were well documented by various beat writers and national media outlets alike. James didn’t suddenly go from being a starter to completely ineffective and over the hill such that the Steelers didn’t think he was even capable of being on their squad. You are completely blind if you think that.

    I’ll agree that Cinci let him go because he wasn’t a good fit. Again, a well-known and documented fact even before he went there. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to those of us who can recognize that. And go re-read my post. I didn’t say James’ numbers were “great,” just that they were as good or better than Jarvis numbers. And why can’t I compare them to each other? Another ludicrous rationalization. When James played for the Steelers, the coaches determined there was a better player or players ahead of him (Porter) and thus either released him or used him as a backup. Last year, they made the decision that Jarvis was the best ROLB on the team, so they are starting him.

    In case you missed it, the argument here isn’t even whether James should start ahead of Jarvis, it’s whether he’s better than the backups. And judging by numbers, you COULD even make the case that James is still just as capable as Jones. Whether one is a rookie or not means nothing, because the goal is to put the best players on the field. And looking at the numbers, James is certainly still capable of competing against any of the current ROLBs.

    Porter’s situation was financial, just like James’. That’s what it boils down to. They didn’t want to pay him what they contractually were obligated to, just the same with James. You think they didn’t ask Joey if he would be willing to take a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh? No, really. I figured you might know the answer, since apparently you have the insider info on exactly how the Pittsburgh Steelers handle all of their financial negotiations.

    You can have your opinion, and that’s fine. Saying something isn’t valid simply because it doesn’t suit your argument doesn’t make it so. But when I see you say something like, “if there are LBs out there on the market with higher value and higher
    salary demands, then they are better candidates to come in than James as
    they are younger and offer more as players” then it’s obvious I’m wasting my time with you. You’ve missed the entire point. I appreciate you taking the time to go back and forth on this, but let’s move on.

  • BFB

    The money got in the way is exactly my point. James would not take a lower pay rate. Cincy got him even cheaper than what Pittsburgh offered. he is a cut rate option at his age and ability. AZ certainly did not pass on James because he was asking for big money. He admitted he would come back to Pittsburgh for vet minimum a short while ago. So I am very confident in saying he was not retained in Cincy, signed by AZ, or brought back to the Steelers due to financial reasons. You don’t need insider knowledge to figure that out. No big mystery like your infatuation with a guy who is not NFL player material any more.
    I won’t waste any more of my time debating with you. If you want to believe James is ready to come back and tear up the league for Pittsburgh or any other team, have at it.

  • walter mason

    Im a little late in commenting here because I didnt have internet. James Harrison one of the greatest Steeler linebackers ever. I wish you could play for the Steelers one more year because we really need you. And Im still hoping you could teach some of the rookies what it means to be a Steeler. I hope we can replace your toughness and commitment at OLB. Enjoy your family and take care.