The Pittsburgh Steelers have reportedly expressed interest in reuniting with one free agent outside linebacker who is currently exploring his options, while another is assuredly going to avoid such a reunion. Arthur Moats and James Harrison both remain on the open market, but the latter is committed to preventing a repeat of last season, where he hardly played until he forced his release.
As Jeremy Fowler writes, Harrison “wants to be on the field in 2018”, which “means playing time will be crucial to where he signs in hopes of avoiding the scenario he experienced last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers”.
As though you were in need of a recap of how the 2017 season unfolded, the Steelers re-signed Harrison early in the offseason to a two-year contract after parting with Jarvis Jones in free agency. Harrison passed Jones on the depth chart during the previous season. They then drafted T.J. Watt in the first round.
With Head Coach Mike Tomlin actively holding Harrison back during offseason workouts, Watt had plenty of time to develop and to demonstrate his capacity to be a rookie full-time starter. That is how things worked out, and the 39-year-old ended up on the bottom of the depth chart.
The only real significant playing time he would receive during the seasons while still in Pittsburgh was when the coaches felt he had a favorable matchup, with the highlight coming against the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded a late sack that more or less sealed a key victory in Week Six of the season.
But Harrison spent most of the season (or rather not playing) behind reserves Anthony Chickillo and Moats, both of whom contributed on special teams. He eventually helped to force his release through insubordinate behavior, though it came when the Steelers needed a roster spot to activate right tackle Marcus Gilbert from the suspended list.
In spite of the fact that he wasn’t playing in Pittsburgh, he played extensively for the New England Patriots, including through their postseason run, though he struggled in the Super Bowl in a performance that included some uncharacteristic missed tackles.
Harrison is waiting until after the draft to find a home for 2018, which is probably wise considering how the draft screwed him and his chances of playing in 2017. While the Patriots remain an option, he should be aware that they are getting back some pass-rushers who were unavailable to them a year ago.
It’s not a sure thing that he does find a team without injuries playing a part in the equation, as was the case after he signed in New England last season, but it’s certainly a possibility.
What will be interesting to see is if his new 2018 team will have a visit to Pittsburgh on its schedule. He has played in Pittsburgh as a visitor when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.