Pittsburgh Steelers veteran outside linebacker James Harrison is ending his 14th season in the league as the team’s starter on the right side and the 38-year-old certainly isn’t playing like his age. While Harrison is unlikely to play many snaps in the Steelers Sunday regular season finale against the Cleveland Browns, he’s been on the field for all but one defensive play in the team’s last three games.
So, will Harrison be back for a 15th season in 2017?
“I want to play this game and see where the playoffs lead us. I’ll make the decision after that,” Harrison recently told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
While it will likely be several months before Harrison makes his decision concerning his NFL future, at least he appears to be very healthy ahead of the playoffs getting underway and that’s not surprising being as he puts in so much time into taking care of his body between random drug tests.
“I’m probably in a better spot now than last year,” Harrison said. “I know how my body reacted. I’ve played every snap for the last two or three games. I would say I’m further along in that process of how my body will react in terms of where I was in the process last year.”
Harrison, who will likely end the 2016 regular season as the team leader in sacks, has also registered 53 total tackles entering Week 17 and that’s the most he’s had since 2012. Being as he was paid $1.25 million in 2016, it’s obvious the Steelers got a bargain with Harrison.
As far as the future goes at the Steelers outside linebacker position, only Bud Dupree and Arthur Moats are currently under contract for the 2016 season and both are scheduled to earn more than Harrison made in 2016. While Anthony Chickllio will also return in 2017 as an exclusive rights free agent, the jury is still out as to whether or not he can be a full-time player and thus ultimately fill Harrison’s shoes should 2016 be it for him.
While the Steelers are expected to address the outside linebacker position either early in the 2017 NFL Draft or via free agency, or even both, the team could still use Harrison for one another season if he wants to play and if the price is right.
Should the Steelers ultimately win the Super Bowl this season, Harrison might decide that’s enough as he would then be a three-time champion in addition to owning the franchise’s all-time sack record. Besides, his two boys aren’t getting any younger so he might decide it’s finally time to spend more time with them.
In the meantime, enjoy Harrison during the playoffs and appreciate all that he’s done during his time in Pittsburgh as this very well could be the final few games of his illustrious career.