Player: James Harrison
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: 11 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $534,412
2014 Season Breakdown: Well, it’s a minor miracle that there even was a 2014 season for James Harrison that I could break down. He and the Steelers could not mutually agree to a pay reduction in the spring of 2013, prompting his release in what was in large part a salary cap dump, only for him to accept less pay elsewhere.
After being released again after the 2014 season, Harrison was finally resigned to retirement in early September, but when Steelers right outside linebacker Jarvis Jones suffered a long-term wrist injury that landed him on the short-term injured reserve list, he was signed immediately and put in a rotation with Arthur Moats.
Over the weeks, as he played his way into shape, Harrison began to log more snaps than Moats, who was the starter, until finally he overtook the starting position himself and began logging the vast majority of the snaps at the critical right edge rushing position, where he once made a name for himself.
There were a few games in particular this season in which he made a significant impact, such as against the Colts and the Ravens in the middle of the season. He recorded two sacks apiece in each of those games. He also had a sack and a half late in the year against the Chiefs, after which game he said that he felt better than he had in years.
Harrison missed a couple of games prior to that Chiefs contest with a knee injury, which gave him time to rest and recuperate his body. But he had a much harder time finding an impact against Andrew Whitworth in the season finale.
He did find success in the Wildcard loss working against an undrafted rookie, gaining several deep pressures throughout the game, but he was unable to finish any of them off. While he finished third on the team with 5.5 sacks in 11 games, he failed to record any turnovers, though he did influence at least one intercepted pass, from recollection.
Free Agency Outlook: Given that he had already officially retired in early September, at least in small part due to seeming lack of serious interest in his services as a 36-year-old around the NFL, one would have to think that there won’t be much of a market for his services come the beginning of free agency.
And the fact of the matter is that Harrison is as likely to want to retire as not, if not more so. He seemed pretty adamant when first signed that he would only be returning for one season, but he slowly began to sound more open about returning for one more year as the games rolled on.
Might the departure of Dick LeBeau influence his decision? His fondness for his former defensive coordinator was made obvious during the 2013 season on national television when a question posed to him about LeBeau brought tears to his eyes.