Though the big news of the day came back at the South Side when the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to terms on a new two-year, $2.75 million contract to retain outside linebacker James Harrison, general manager Kevin Colbert was attending the NFL’s annual league meetings, and he passed along a lot of valuable information about the team’s thought process throughout this offseason.
While Colbert reaffirmed that the Steelers’ biggest offseason move was, of course, getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger extended after agreeing to terms on a new contract that runs through the 2019 season, he was also quoted as saying that he was “real happy” to have Harrison remain with the team.
Of the chief reasons cited? “He has been great with our young defenders, particularly the linebackers”. This would have seemed an unthinkable pronouncement to make a few years back, but there’s no doubt that Harrison has changed over the years, in case you didn’t notice him helping up Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco last season after knocking him to the ground.
The Steelers have clearly placed substantial value on the fact that the 37-year-old has a lot to offer what is by and large a very young group of linebackers, whom, outside of himself, Arthur Moats, and Lawrence Timmons, have only two seasons or less of playing experience.
Harrison’s agent told Beaver County Times that he was being brought back in a supporting role. His salary would seem to suggest that, especially in comparison to the three-year contract signed by Moats earlier.
But Colbert told Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he views both outside linebacker and cornerback spots as up for grabs. While he said that there are no plans of moving Harrison at this time, he did say that moving Jones to the left side was a possibility, despite saying he “would imagine” Moats is the starter there.
Regarding Jones, Colbert told Kaboly that he “has to come in and pick up where he left off before he injured his wrist”, which sounds like they did like what they saw prior to the injury, but he offered so little after returning that he is basically starting from scratch.
Interestingly, Pittsburgh’s general manager was also clear in saying that Jason Worilds “deciding to retire didn’t affect us one way or the other because he wasn’t in our plans”. This seems in contradiction to earlier comments suggesting that he was a priority.
In review of the free agency process, however, he also told Kaboly that there were no deals out there that “made sense”, and that had there been, the deal would have been made. The pass rushing market, as well as the market for cornerbacks, was inflated this year, to the point where bringing Harrison back was the most pragmatic option available.
Unsurprisingly, Colbert said that the team went into free agency looking to hold serve in terms of retaining as much of their talent as possible. They only lost one free agent and signed one of their own, which looks pretty even.
Also of note is that there remains no update on the status or on a timetable for Troy Polamalu. The Steelers’ three restricted free agents have yet to sign their tenders as well. Regarding the cornerback draft class, Colbert told Kaboly that they “wouldn’t draft a guy just because he is more ready to help us this year”.