2017 South Side Questions: If Not James Harrison, Who Should Steelers Have Released?

The journey toward the Super Bowl is now well under way with the Pittsburgh Steelers back practicing at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, still informally referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility. With the regular season standing in their way on the path to a Lombardi, there will be questions for them to answer along the way.

We have asked and answered a lot of questions during the preseason and through training camp, but much of the answer-seeking ends in the regular season, and teams simply have to make do with what they have available to them. Still, there will always be questions for us.

You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the regular season and beyond as they develop, looking for the answers as we evaluate the makeup of the Steelers on their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.

Question: If not James Harrison, which player would you have released in order to activate Marcus Gilbert?

I think it goes without saying that the Steelers’ release of James Harrison has been the topic of the past 24 hours. Not that it’s the first time that the team has released him. This is something like the fourth or fifth time, overall, if I recall correctly, and not even the most significant. But here we are, yet again.

The 39-year-old outside linebacker was given his release in order to make room for Marcus Gilbert, the starting right tackle returning from a four-game suspension. Harrison talked openly about his dissatisfaction with his role on the team and basically said he wouldn’t have signed up for this had he known this season would have unfolded for him as it had.

The release was described as ‘amicable’, but on an emotional level, Steelers fans are still struggling to come to grips with the move, particularly the ‘true believers’ who held on to the notion that they were ‘saving’ him for the playoffs.

For the record, Harrison is not the player that I would have released, but I did mention him a couple of days ago as a possible candidate, and it’s really not hard to see. He’s often inactive and has only played a couple dozen snaps all year. Taking the name plates away, it makes sense.

But it could have been somebody else. I’ve seen a lot of people mentioning Matt Feiler, Justin Hunter, and Daniel McCullers. With Ramon Foster having concussion symptoms and Antonio Brown injured, however, the first two are not timely, and getting rid of your sixth defensive lineman just as you begin to use three-lineman sub-packages would seem counterintuitive.

Coty Sensabaugh is probably who I would have released, personally, as he is now basically the seventh cornerback with Joe Haden returning. I’m sure many would also have preferred Arthur Moats, and maybe even Anthony Chickillo, get their walking papers over Harrison.

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